The U.S. Department of State has upped the bounty to US$5 million for information leading to the arrest of Ruja Ignatove, also known as “Cryptoqueen.”

Ignatova, who vanished in 2017 following the collapse of her cryptocurrency venture OneCoin, faces charges including wire fraud and money laundering.

Announced Thursday, the increased reward highlights the intensified efforts to capture Ignatova and the gravity of her alleged offenses.

Ruja Ignatova, a German national, has been a fugitive since the exposure of OneCoin as a fraudulent Ponzi scheme in 2017.

The scam, which she founded in 2014, deceitfully claimed to be a rival to Bitcoin and swindled over US$4 billion from investors.

Despite her indictment in 2017 and rumors of her death, Ignatova’s whereabouts remain unknown, and she is a prominent figure on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

There is speculation that she may have changed her appearance through plastic surgery to avoid capture.

The search for Ignatova has been riddled with challenges, including conflicting intelligence on her location and even her survival.

Bulgarian officials once speculated that she might have been killed in 2018, but the absence of definitive proof and her continued listing on the FBI’s Most Wanted List suggests that law enforcement agencies are not persuaded of her death.

The increased bounty is part of the State Department’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program.

Several of Ignatova’s associates have been prosecuted.

Her brother, Konstantin Ignatov, received a prison sentence and is collaborating with authorities, providing evidence that contributed to the conviction of OneCoin’s lawyer, Mark Scott.

Co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood and former head of legal and compliance Irina Dilkinska have also entered guilty pleas for their involvement in the scheme.