Woman who lost late father's life savings after investing in 'Cryptoqueen's' OneCoin pyramid scheme

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A woman who lost her late father’s life savings after investing in Bulgarian ‘Cryptoqueen’s’ OneCoin pyramid scheme has recalled the ‘devastating’ moment she realised her and her loved ones were not getting their £250,000 back.

Jen McAdam, from Glasgow, appeared on This Morning today to warn viewers about Dr Ruja Ignatova’s reported scam, which saw the Scottish woman lose her £8,600 inheritance – her coal miner father’s life savings. 

Last month, German-Bulgarian Dr Ruja, dubbed the ‘Cryptoqueen’, was added to the FBI‘s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after allegedly defrauding investors worldwide between 2014 and 2018 with her $4 billion cryptocurrency pyramid scheme.

She is now wanted for $100,000 and investigators believe Dr Ruja, as she styled herself, was tipped off in 2017 after a U.S. District Court in New York issued a warrant for her arrest, leading the alleged scammer to travel to Greece and disappear. 

Jen McAdam (pictured), from Glasgow, appeared on This Morning today to warn viewers about Dr Ruja Ignatova’s reported scam, which saw the Scottish woman lose her £8,600 inheritance – her coal miner father’s life savings

Last month, German-Bulgarian Dr Ruja (pictured), dubbed the ‘Cryptoqueen’, was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after allegedly defrauding investors worldwide between 2014 and 2018 with her $4 billion cryptocurrency pyramid scheme

Speaking on the ITV programme today, an emotional Jen said: ‘My best friend introduced me, someone introduced her, and then she introduced me.

‘She knew I had a certain amount of money that my late father had left me when he passed and I was was looking for somewhere safe to put that.

‘He lived until he was 92, he was a working class man, a coal miner, he didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he was just happy that he could leave this amount for his family. And I invested the money into OneCoin.’

Former business woman Jen joined OneCoin in February 2016, and was impressed by Dr Ruja being pictured on the cover of Forbes magazine, which specialises in wealthy individuals, as well as her credentials, such as a law degree from Oxford, followed by a stint working for McKinsey & Company, the respected global asset management firm.

‘So convincing,’ said the Scot. ‘I was so ecstatic,’ she added, before explaining that the investment spread like wildfire within her community, with loved ones giving £250,000 to the scheme overall.

Investors could sign up to buy the currency which would then appear in their account – and because more and more people would join, said Dr Ruja, the value of the currency would go up.

Speaking on the ITV programme today, an emotional Jen (right) said: ‘My best friend introduced me, someone introduced her, and then she introduced me’

But in 2017, Jen, who at one point had believed her original stake was worth nearly £100,000, realised it was a scam.  

One evening, she received a disturbing call from Timothy Curry, a Bitcoin enthusiast from California, who was trying to warn investors that OneCoin was a scam and that their money was gone. She didn’t believe him at first. 

But Curry explained the basic principle that all cryptocurrencies have a special type of database called a blockchain – an incorruptible computer record of all transactions that proves to everybody that the currency is sound.

This technology makes it impossible to counterfeit new currency and guarantees there is a finite number in circulation. 

Without the security of the blockchain and the fiendish mathematics behind it, the price could be rigged or faked. Whole fortunes could be created and then deleted at the push of a button.

Dr Ruja, as she styled herself, is now wanted for $100,000 and investigators believe she was tipped off in 2017 after a U.S. District Court in New York issued a warrant for her arrest, leading the alleged scammer to travel to Greece and disappear

Jen started asking to see evidence of OneCoin’s blockchain, but the company’s officials refused, saying it was secret. 

After speaking to a blockchain specialist, she came to the horrifying realisation that the daily valuation of her investment on her computer screen did not reflect any true value at all. It was just a made-up price created in Bulgaria.

Recalling the moment she realised she was never getting her money back, she said: ‘It was devastating, I sill can’t put it into words, my legs went from under me. 

‘When I realised it was a fraud, I’ll never forget that moment, my legs went to jelly. Just went, and I fell to the floor. 

‘Also, a big part of it for victims caught up in this, is the regret and guilt that they have, and carrying the shame.’

Dr Ruja (pictured), 42, launched OneCoin in 2014, aiming to replace Bitcoin as the world’s leading virtual money 

Tapping a global network to market the coin to friends and family in exchange for their own payouts, she allegedly pulled in more than £3 billion in what was a classic Ponzi scheme, according to court documents

She continued: ‘I’ve been advocating for justice for victims and I started a victims support group and we now have over 10,000 victims and working to expose this further.’

Jen was eventually given the opportunity to write a book about what happened, which a company has now purchased the rights to the work for a movie, in which Kate Winslet is tipped to play Jen.

‘I just thought there’s not going to be another opportunity like this to raise awareness for the victims especially,’ said Jen.

THE FBI’S TOP TEN MOST WANTED FUGITIVES

The FBI has maintained a list of its top most wanted fugitives for 72 years. 

Along with Ruja Ignatova, the current members of the list include: 

ARNOLDO JIMENEZ: Wanted for the alleged brutal 2012 murder of his wife the day after their wedding 

ALEXIS FLORES: Wanted for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and murder of a five-year-old Philadelphia girl in 2000

JOSE RODOLFO VILLARREAL-HERNANDEZ: Wanted for allegedly instructing individuals to track and murder a 43-year-old man in Southlake, Texas, in 2013

YULAN ADONAY ARCHAGA CARIAS: Wanted for alleged racketeering and drug and weapon charges as the alleged leader of MS-13 for all of Honduras 

RAFAEL CARO-QUINTERO: Wanted for the 1985 murder of a federal agent as the godfather of Mexican drug trafficking

EUGENE PALMER: Wanted for the murder of his daughter-in-law in 2012

BHADRESHKUMAR CHETANBHAI PATEL:  Wanted for the murder of his wife in 2015

ALEJANDRO ROSALES CASTILLO: Wanted for his alleged involvement of the murder of a coworker in 2016

JASON DEREK BROWN: Wanted for murder and armed robbery in 2014

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Commenting on Winslet’s rumoured role in the film, Jen revealed:  ‘We don’t know if it’s going to be the case at the moment, with the way things have worked out with Covid and stuff, but it’s still up in the air.

‘Kate Winslet was to play the role of Jen, but we don’t know if that’s going to happen at the moment… She came to my house to visit… she brought amazing empathy and understanding. She really is a beautiful soul… it’s a moment I’ll treasure forever.’

Concluding her segment on This Morning, Jen warned: ‘Unless you understand cryptocurrency, if you don’t have any knowledge do not invest, because what you think might look like sugar is salt.’

Dr Ruja, 42, launched OneCoin in 2014, aiming to replace Bitcoin as the world’s leading virtual money.

Tapping a global network to market the coin to friends and family in exchange for their own payouts, she allegedly pulled in more than £3 billion in what was a classic Ponzi scheme, according to court documents.

She gave an investors speech to a packed crowd at Wembley Arena in 2016 and is thought to have defrauded scores of British victims with her international scam. She disappeared in 2017 as international investigators began to close in.

‘Investigators believe Ignatova may have been tipped off that she was under investigation by US and international authorities,’ the FBI said. ‘She traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, on October 25, 2017, and has not been seen since.’

Dr Ruja is the only woman on the 10 most wanted list, and is only the 11th female to have been placed on the FBI’s list in its 72-year history.

She is also wanted in Germany through an Interpol Red Notice, which warns that she may have surgically changed her appearance in order to avoid capture. 

Authorities believe she could be traveling with a fake German passport to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Russia, Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe. 

Although she remains on the run, her brother, Konstantin, was arrested in 2019 and plead guilty to multiple felonies for his leadership role in OneCoin. 

In 2018, authorities issued a superseding indictment against Dr Ruja, charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud. 

Mike Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the New York Office, and Damian Williams, the U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York, said they were confident that Dr Ruja would be caught.