The co-founder of the fraudulent cryptocurrency OneCoin has been sentenced to 20 years in a US prison.
Sebastian Karl Greenwood colluded with others, including the so-called “Cryptoqueen,” who is now on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, officials say.
They are accused of defrauding investors of more than $4bn (£3.2bn).
Greenwood, 46, a citizen of the United Kingdom and Sweden, was arrested in Thailand in July 2018. He pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and money laundering.
Officials say OneCoin, which was founded in 2014 in Bulgaria, operated as a global pyramid scheme.
Greenwood founded and ran the company with Ruja Ignatova, the so-called Cryptoqueen, who has not been seen since she disappeared in Greece in 2017.
OneCoin sought to capitalize on Bitcoin’s success, officials said, and “used Bitcoin’s notoriety to convince investors that OneCoin was the next ‘can’t miss’ investment opportunity.”
“In reality, unlike legitimate cryptocurrencies, OneCoin had no real value and was conceived by Greenwood and Ignatova as a fraud from day one,” prosecutors for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said. he said in a press release on Tuesday.
The statement said that together they “operated one of the largest fraud schemes ever committed”.
“We hope this lengthy sentence will reverberate throughout the financial sector and deter anyone who might be tempted to lie to investors and fraudulently exploit the cryptocurrency ecosystem,” said US Attorney Damian Williams.
The sentence was handed down Tuesday by a federal judge in Manhattan. Prosecutors say many of OneCoin’s victims were from the New York region.
The BBC’s podcast The Missing Crypto Queen documented the search for Dr. Ignatov, the original public face of OneCoin.
The former McKinsey consultant has appeared at a number of events and on social media to promote the scheme.
But she disappeared from sight around October 2017 and there have been no confirmed sightings since then.
The FBI has offered up to $250,000 for information leading to her arrest, according to the FBI’s Most Wanted website.
Her FBI profile says she “likely travels with armed guards” and “may have had plastic surgery or otherwise altered her appearance”.
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