UPDATED: A cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme that pulled in an estimated $4 billion worldwide is getting the documentary treatment.
Sky Germany, the U.K.’s Channel 4 and super-indie Fremantle are backing a three-part doc series about the con, which was spearheaded by the mysterious Dr. Ruja Ignatova, who is still on the run from law enforcement officials. The FBI added Ignatova to its ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ list on Thursday (June 30), with a reward of up to $100,000 for information that leads to her arrest.
“Crypto Queen” (working title) promises to shed exclusive new light on one of the biggest digital scams of the last decade. Produced by Tondowski Films and Derren Lawford’s DARE Pictures, the series explores the story of how self-styled lawyer and Bulgarian businesswoman Dr. Ruja Ignatova, dubbed ‘The Queen of Crypto,’ scammed investors out of billions of dollars in less than three years through her cryptocurrency brainchild, OneCoin.
At her peak, in 2016, Ignatova presented OneCoin on stage in Wembley stadium and hosted lavish parties in Dubai and New York, all at the expense of her investors. Then, in October 2017, she boarded a flight to Athens, Greece, along with the riches of her clientele and vanished.
Filmed across multiple countries, and with insights from intelligence experts, defrauded investors and former OneCoin employees, “Crypto Queen” also features exclusive contributions from Dr. Jonathan Levy (an attorney/solicitor who has represented efforts to secure $11 billion in compensation from OneCoin), and Timothy Curry, one of the first to warn about the OneCoin scam.
“Crypto Queen” is created and produced by Tondowski Films and DARE Pictures in association with Lone Wolf Studios, with Sky Germany and Channel 4 on board as broadcast partners. The series is directed by award-winning filmmaker Rudolph Herzog (“Heist,” “The Paedophile Next Door”) working closely with writer and journalist Raid Sabbah who collaborated on the feature film “How To Fake A War.”
Fremantle, which co-invested in the series, is also handling worldwide sales outside of the U.K. and Germany.
Executive producers are Alex Tondowski, Ira Tondowski and Lawford. Stephen Robert Morse and Max Peltz from Lone Wolf Studios are co-executive producers.
Ira Tondowski and Alex Tondowski, CEOs of Tondowski Films, said: “’Crypto Queen’ peels back OneCoin’s shiny façade to unveil the untold corruption, money laundering, death threats and sheer greed in a huge, growing, and mostly unregulated sector of international finance. With Derren Lawford of DARE Pictures, director Rudolph Herzog and writer Raid Sabbah, we were able to put together a great creative team to bring this fascinating and relevant story to global audiences. We couldn’t wish for better partners than Fremantle, Sky Germany and C4 to bring this premium package to its full potential.”
Lawford, founder and CEO of DARE Pictures, said: “OneCoin is a truly transnational scandal which straddles the worlds of cryptocurrency and corruption with the charismatic and enigmatic Ruja Ignatova at the centre of quite possibly the biggest scam in modern times. I’m a huge fan of Tondowski Films and Rudolph Herzog and couldn’t think of better creative partners for DARE’s debut commission. Having Sky Germany, C4 and Fremantle on board speaks to the huge international and commercial potential of this premium project packed full of surprise revelations.”
Christian Asanger, VP of entertainment for Sky Germany, added: “Sky Crime was just launched in April 2021 in Germany to provide our customers with premium true crime content and is meanwhile one of our most popular channel brands on the platform. Sky Originals are a key pillar for that success story. We are excited to add the unprecedented and revealing crime series ‘Crypto Queen’ to our portfolio, produced by Tondowski Films and Dare Pictures and directed by renowned Rudolph Herzog.”
Polly Scates, acquisitions manager at Channel 4, said: “We were immediately drawn to this ambitious twist on the true crime genre that follows one of the biggest cons in recent history. The strand True Crime on 4 continues to go from strength to strength and we’re confident this stranger than fiction case will make an exciting addition to the slate! We’re absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Tondowski Films and DARE Pictures to bring this incredible story to our viewers.”
Angela Neillis, senior VP of non-scripted content at Fremantle, said: “Fremantle have huge ambition in the documentary and factual space, and we are seeing amazing growth of our slate through really unique projects. We collaborate with the best, most credible talent globally, and are delighted to be working with Derren and Alex on this excellent and timely series.”