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'Cryptoqueen' associate pleads guilty in U.S. over OneCoin fraud

Cryptocurrencies at crossroads after annus horribilis
Cryptocurrencies at crossroads after annus horribilis Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters
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By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK - A dual citizen of Sweden and the United Kingdom pleaded guilty to U.S. fraud and money laundering charges on Friday for selling a fake cryptocurrency alongside one of the United States' most-wanted fugitives, a woman referred to as the 'Cryptoqueen.'

Karl Greenwood, 45, was arrested in Thailand and extradited to the United States in 2018 for his role in selling the purported cryptocurrency OneCoin, which federal prosecutors in Manhattan call a pyramid scheme that defrauded investors out of $4 billion. He has been detained since his arrest.

The plea comes as prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) ramp up enforcement of financial crimes related to digital assets. On Tuesday, prosecutors unsealed an indictment of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the FTX crypto exchange, on charges of stealing billions in customer deposits.

"This guilty plea by the co-founder of OneCoin caps a week at SDNY that sends a clear message that we are coming after all those who seek to exploit the cryptocurrency ecosystem through fraud," Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Greenwood founded OneCoin in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014 alongside Ruja Ignatova, a German citizen who prosecutors say is also known as the 'Cryptoqueen.' The FBI named her to its top ten most-wanted list in June, and prosecutors said on Friday she remains at large.

A lawyer for Greenwood declined to comment. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 5 for the three counts to which he pleaded guilty.

Bankman-Fried has acknowledged risk management failures at FTX but said he does not believe he has any criminal liability. He is currently detained in The Bahamas, where FTX is based, and is contesting a U.S. request for his extradition.

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