In a significant development, Karl Greenwood, one of the founders of the infamous OneCoin pyramid scheme, has been sentenced to a 20-year prison term by a federal court in the Southern District of New York. This sentencing comes as a stern response to his central role in the OneCoin project, which has been exposed as one of the largest cryptocurrency-related scams in history. Alongside the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos has ordered Greenwood to forfeit approximately $300 million, an amount that reflects his ill-gotten gains from the fraudulent scheme.
The OneCoin Pyramid Scheme
The OneCoin scheme began its operation in Bulgaria back in 2014, marketing itself as a legitimate cryptocurrency with the promise of mining capabilities and real-world value. However, the stark reality was that OneCoin had no existence on any blockchain, and it operated as a classic pyramid scheme. Investors were incentivized to bring in new participants, with rewards flowing upwards in a hierarchical fashion. Ultimately, this fraudulent operation managed to defraud more than $4 billion from a staggering 3.5 million victims.
Karl Greenwood’s Integral Role
Karl Greenwood played a pivotal role within the OneCoin scam as the “global master distributor” and leader of the multi-level marketing (MLM) network responsible for promoting and selling the fictitious cryptocurrency. This position afforded him a substantial cut, earning 5% of OneCoin’s monthly sales worldwide.
Greenwood’s apprehension occurred in Thailand in 2018, where he was subsequently extradited to the United States. He had been detained in the U.S. while awaiting trial. Last December, he entered a guilty plea to charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money, marking a significant turning point in the legal proceedings against him.
The “CryptoQueen” Remains at Large
While Greenwood’s sentencing marks a milestone in bringing justice to those involved in the OneCoin scandal, the scheme’s co-founder, Ruja Ignatova, infamously known as the “CryptoQueen,” remains at large. Ignatova’s evasion of authorities has made her a fugitive, and she was even added to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Most Wanted list last year. Her whereabouts and activities continue to be a subject of intense investigation and global interest.
The sentencing of Karl Greenwood sends a powerful message that those involved in fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes will face severe consequences for their actions. It also underscores the ongoing efforts of law enforcement agencies to bring justice to the victims of such scams and to hold those responsible accountable for their deeds.