Skip to content

OneCoin Lawyer Sentenced to Four Years for Role in $4 Billion Crypto Fraud

Irina Dilkinska of OneCoin was sentenced to four years in prison for her role in the $4 billion cryptocurrency scheme that defrauded millions of investors around the world.

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos delivered the sentencing to the Bulgarian national, age 42, at a hearing in Manhattan, and further ordered Dilkinska to forfeit $118.4 million.

OneCoin was founded in 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, by “CryptoQueen” Ruja Ignatova and Karl Sebastian Greenwood. Prosecutors said it became a $4 billion Ponzi and multilevel marketing scheme based on OneCoin’s worthless crypto.

Prosecutors said Dilkinska, OneCoin’s former head of legal and compliance, helped to organize the laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars from the OneCoin scheme and was an integral part of Ignatova’s inner circle. Several text messages and emails show that Dilkinska knew her actions were illegal, according to the government, and she also kept working for OneCoin even after Ignatova disappeared in 2017.

However, the judge noted that unlike other major players in the scheme, Dilkinska did not profit beyond her salary at OneCoin and may not have known about the scheme/massive fraud when she began her job, though afterward, “she made no effort to separate herself from the scheme.”

The sentencing guidelines in Dilkinska’s case technically called for a term of life imprisonment, mostly due to the enormous loss amount in her guidelines calculation, but that was reduced to the statutory maximum of 10 years in prison.

The parties agreed that Dilkinska’s sentence was appropriate, given her comparatively low level of culpability and the apparent harsh conditions she’s had to endure for more than a year at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center.

“Like many of my colleagues, I believe some measure of leniency is appropriate because we are not able to detain [people] in a manner in which [they] should be held,” Judge Ramos said.

Dilkinska was extradited to the United States in March 2023 and pled guilty in November to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Before her extradition, she was incarcerated for approximately 28 months in Bulgaria.

In a statement to the court, Dilkinska apologized to anyone who suffered as a result of her actions and spoke of her difficult times at MDC over the past year while being separated from her children.

“The year that I spent in MDC, [it] felt like I was drifting in a sea of idleness,” Dilkinska said. “And depression lurks in every corner.”

In a statement, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams called Dilkinska’s involvement in the OneCoin scheme “a flagrant breach of conduct.”

“Rather than upholding the law and embracing her position as the head of legal and compliance, she facilitated and committed money laundering, aiding in the exploitation of millions of victims,” he said.

Prosecutors say OneCoin operated like a pyramid scheme, in which early investors received commissions for recruiting other investors to purchase crypto packages. Ignatova and Greenwood told investors that OneCoin was legitimate crypto like Bitcoin, but it had no actual value.

The fake crypto’s value was set by OneCoin itself, which also claimed its crypto was mined using servers it operated, and that it had a private blockchain. But prosecutors say there was no mining and that OneCoin lacked a real blockchain, which would have been public and verifiable. Also by 2015, OneCoin began allocating crypto that did not even exist on its private blockchain, according to the government.

Ignatova disappeared in 2017 and has been on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list since June 2022.

Click here to visit The DI Wire directory page.