Gilbert Armenta – the former boyfriend of Ruja Ignatova (more famous as the “Cryptoqueen”) – will reportedly spend five years in jail for participating in the fraudulent cryptocurrency project OneCoin.
The Bulgarian-born Ignatova – the Founder of the infamous Ponzi scheme – sits on the FBI’s ten most-wanted list. She was last seen in 2017 in Greece, while some sources hinted she could have been killed.
Armenta Gets Five Years, Instead of Seven
According to a Bloomberg Law coverage, the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Courthouse sentenced Armenta to five years in federal prison for laundering $300 million in proceeds generated from the OneCoin scam. The 59-year-old was the ex-boyfriend of Ruja Ignatova – the creator of the scheme that defrauded investors out of over $4 billion.
The initial investigation indicated Armenta could go to jail for seven years. However, he pleaded guilty to money laundering, extortion, and committing wire fraud in 2018, hence the reduced punishment.
Matthew Lee – Founder of the public interest organization Inner City Press – shed more light on the case against the defendant. After laundering $300 million, Armenta supposedly purchased luxurious items for himself, such as a jet plane.
He later violated his agreement with the authorities by selling the aircraft and stole a $5 million check. In addition, Ignatova’s ex-boyfriend bribed Mexican entities and gambled funds stolen from OneCoin investors.
Armenta’s lawyer claimed his client was not a violent person, adding that his problems came from the misfortune of entering into a “romantic relationship” with the “Cryptoqueen.” She presumably “drilled into his apartment and hired a couple to live next to him and surveil him.” Armenta also bought a bank in Georgia, where Ignatova was already a customer.
The defendant asked to serve his sentence in FCI Miami Federal Prison – a low-security correctional institution for male inmates. The magistrates are yet to decide whether to approve that request.
The ‘Cryptoqueen’ and her Multi-Billion Scam
OneCoin – a fraudulent cryptocurrency pyramid scheme established in Bulgaria in 2014 – pulled in more than $4 billion between its launch and 2016, scamming millions of people. Its founders urged investors to buy “educational packages” for digital asset trading that cost from 100 euros to 118,000 euros.
Alongside their purchase, people also received OneCoin tokens that could be exchanged for fiat on a specially designed internal marketplace. The venue had daily selling limits based on the type of package each investor had chosen, controlling the number of coins that could be swapped.
The marketplace closed for two weeks for maintenance in March 2016 and shut down again in January 2017. Nonetheless, people affiliated with the entity continued to accept funds.
The authorities of Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, and Croatia warned numerous times over the years that OneCoin could be a fraudulent project, urging people to stay away from it.
CEO and Founder Ruja Ignatova, described by the BBC as “the woman who scammed the world,” was last spotted in Athens, Greece, in 2017. Several coverages indicated that she could have taken much of the stolen funds, hiding on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. This could prove to be a good location for a fugitive since no jurisdiction or authorities are allowed to arrest people who are twelve nautical miles from the coast.
Frank Schneider – the former leader of the Luxembourg intelligence – believes Ignatova might have been killed:
“I believe she was murdered, and while I hope not, there is nothing to prove otherwise.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also joined the hunt for the “Cryptoqueen,” placing her on its “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list. The agency also offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who provided information regarding her whereabouts.
Resurfacing in London?
Earlier this year, a penthouse worth nearly $15 million (bought by Ignatova several years ago) re-appeared on the London house market, suggesting that the fugitive could be alive.
Bielefeld’s prosecutors previously accused Ignatova’s German lawyer of money laundering for transferring over $21 million to fund the purchase of the apartment and a second flat in the building.
The asking price for the property located in one of London’s best areas – Kensington – was later reduced to around $13 million, and currently, it is no longer listed for sale.
Estate agent Knight Frank did not confirm whether it was sold but assured it “complied fully at all times with its legal and regulatory obligations.”