According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Karl Sebastian Greenwood, co-founder of the infamous OneCoin cryptocurrency scheme, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The decision was handed down by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, following Greenwood’s involvement in a fraudulent operation that deceived millions of investors worldwide, leading to losses exceeding $4 billion.
OneCoin: A Brief Overview
Founded in 2014, OneCoin Ltd., headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria, was marketed as a revolutionary cryptocurrency. However, it was later revealed to be a sham, with no real value. The company operated through a global multi-level-marketing (MLM) network, enticing millions to invest based on false promises and misrepresentations.
The Scale of the Fraud
Between Q4 2014 and Q4 2016, OneCoin amassed over $4 billion from at least 3.5 million victims. Greenwood, as the global master distributor, was instrumental in the scheme’s success, earning a staggering 5% of monthly OneCoin sales globally. This amounted to over $200 million in just two years and totaled around $300 million overall.
Greenwood and his co-founder, Ruja Ignatova, known as “the Cryptoqueen,” strategically used Bitcoin’s reputation to lure investors. They presented OneCoin as the next big investment opportunity, drawing parallels between the two cryptocurrencies in their marketing materials. However, unlike legitimate cryptocurrencies, OneCoin’s value was arbitrarily set by the company, with no regard for market dynamics.
The Illusion of Legitimacy
OneCoin falsely claimed to operate on a private “blockchain.” However, it lacked a genuine, verifiable blockchain. By March 2015, Greenwood and Ignatova began allocating non-existent OneCoins to members, dubbing them “fake coins.” This deception was further highlighted in email exchanges between the co-founders, where they acknowledged the absence of real mining operations.
Lavish Lifestyles Funded by Fraud
The funds amassed from the scheme were used to finance extravagant lifestyles. Greenwood, for instance, spent thousands on luxury resorts in Brazil and Thailand, designer goods, and even a private “OneCoin” airplane. He also invested in real estate across Spain, Dubai, and Thailand.
The Arrest and Extradition
Greenwood was apprehended in Koh Samui, Thailand, in July 2018 and was later extradited to the U.S. in October 2018. He has remained in custody since his arrest.
The Hunt for the Cryptoqueen
Ruja Ignatova, Greenwood’s co-conspirator, remains elusive. Charged with OneCoin-related fraud and money laundering in October 2017, she vanished after a trip from Bulgaria to Greece later that month. Ignatova was added to the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List in June 2022, with a $100,000 reward for information leading to her capture.
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