While individuals such as Elon Musk, Vitalik Buterin, Changpeng Zhao are revered by crypto investors and their statements have the power to move markets, here is a list of five personalities who are at the opposite-end of the spectrum:
The crypto world is full of famous personalities. Individuals such as Vitalik Buterin, Changpeng Zhao and Elon Musk are revered by crypto investors, and their statements have the power to move markets. However, there are some personalities who are at the opposite end of the spectrum as well. These individuals are talked about just as often and find themselves in the news just as frequently, but for all the wrong reasons. Let’s look at some of these personalities and what they did to attract the negative sentiments around them.
Ruja Ignatova is perhaps the most infamous personality on this list. Often referred to as the Crypto Queen, Ignatova is a convicted Bulgarian-German fraudster who orchestrated the OneCoin Ponzi scheme, one of the biggest scams in crypto history.
OneCoin’s main business model revolved around the sale of course materials. In many ways, it resembled a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme where those who purchased the course material were paid to recruit new buyers. The OneCoin project ran successfully between 2014 and 2016. During this period, it is believed to have syphoned upwards of $4 billion from innocent investors.
The project’s co-founder, Sebastian Greenwood, was apprehended and sentenced to jail in the US. Ignatova’s brother, Konstantin Ignatov, was also arrested and pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering. However, by the time authorities started cracking down on the company, Ignatova had already gone into hiding. She is believed to have caught a flight from Bulgaria to Greece but hasn’t been seen since. In July this year, the FBI even added Ignatova to its Most Wanted List.
John McAfee was a British-American computer programmer and businessman known for launching the first commercial anti-virus software, McAfee Antivirus. McAfee eventually sold his stake in the anti-virus company and started pursuing several other business interests, including cryptocurrencies.
However, instead of pushing the envelope of technology and innovation, McAfee turned to pump-and-dumps and promoting ICOs to amass a small fortune.
According to court documents, McAfee and his associates got away with over $13 million using his popular Twitter account to push niche cryptocurrencies or promote initial coin offerings. Of course, this was done without disclosing that he stood to profit through investment gains or promotional fees.
Faced with indictments from the SEC and multiple tax evasion cases, McAfee was arrested in Spain in October 2020 and was set to be extradited to the US. However, he was found hanging in his cell in June 2021. His death was shrouded in speculation and conspiracy theories about the possibility that he was murdered. Further, in a recent Netflix show — Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee — his wife, Janice McAfee, said she did not believe his death was a suicide and claimed the suicide note that was found in his cell was a forgery.
Gerald Cotten is quite well-known among crypto investors in Canada. He was the founder of QuadrigaCX, which was once Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange. However, things went wrong when cryptocurrency prices crashed in 2018, and customers tried to withdraw their funds from Quadriga. Most investors were met with dead ends and could not withdraw their funds.
Around the same time, Cotten was reported to have died while honeymooning with his wife in India. It’s believed that Cotten owed more than $250 million to over 76,000 investors. However, this sum could only be accessed by Cotten, as he was the only one with passwords to the offline cold wallets. Therefore, his untimely death raised widespread speculation — many users believed he had orchestrated the perfect exit scheme, faking his death to get away with the funds.
A Netflix show — Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King — explored these theories and interviewed several investors, enforcement agents and Cotten’s acquaintances. Ultimately, it was discovered that Cotten was a scam artist and QuadrigaCX was his Ponzi scheme. Worse still, he reportedly lost around $150 million of customers’ money to gambling and spent the rest on his lavish lifestyle.
Cornelius Johannes Steynberg
Cornelius Johannes Steynberg is the founder of a South African crypto exchange called Mirror Trading International Proprietary Limited (MTI). Steynberg founded MTI in May 2018 and continued operations till late 2020, at which point it had become clear that the platform was actually a Ponzi scheme.
He fled South Africa in December 2020 and managed to stay undetected for an entire year. Then, in January 2022, police in Brazil received a tip about a foreigner using a fake ID. The person they apprehended was none other than Cornelius Johann Steynberg. He was arrested and will be deported to the US, where he faces multiple lawsuits from law enforcement agencies like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Steynberg is said to have accumulated at least 29,421 BTC worth $1.7 billion by defrauding participants in a scheme he was running through MTI. According to the official press release, this is the largest fraudulent scheme involving Bitcoin charged in any CFTC case.
Do Kwon is a South Korean cryptocurrency developer who co-founded the Terra blockchain. In May 2022, the blockchain’s native cryptocurrency LUNA and its associated stablecoin UST collapsed to $0, wiping out almost $60 billion of market capitalisation in a little over a week.
Initially, it was reported that a coordinated attack led to UST’s de-peg and LUNA’s death spiral. However, a few days later, some reports suggested that Do Kwon dissolved Terra’s Seoul and Busan branches just days before the crash. This caused widespread speculation and invited the glare of law enforcement agencies worldwide. The Korean National Tax Service also imposed $78.4 million in corporate and income tax on Do Kwon and Terraform Labs.
While Do Kwon is believed to have cooperated with officials initially, he is now said to be on the run. There is even a red notice issued against him by Interpol. Along with law enforcement agencies, some 4,400 disgruntled investors are said to have started their hunt for Do Kwon and claim he is hiding out in Russia, Dubai, Azerbaijan or sailing somewhere on a yacht. However, Do Kwon continues to appear online, maintaining his innocence and stating that he is not on the run. But he does not reveal his location, citing personal safety concerns.