January 10, 2023
By Sharan Kaur Phillora
The developer of the Mutant Ape Planet non-fungible token (NFT) collection – a knock-off of the popular Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFT collection – has been arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly perpetrating a $2.9 million rug pull.
Aurelien Michel, a 24-year-old French citizen in the United Arab Emirates, was taken into custody on Wednesday evening after landing at John F. Kennedy airport in New York.
Here’s what we know:
The Department of Justice for the Eastern District of New York unsealed a criminal complaint on Jan. 5 against Mutant Ape Planet developer Aurelien Michel for defrauding investors.
According to the complaint, Michel and other unnamed defendants marketed the Mutant Ape Planet NFTs to prospective buyers by promising them that their purchases would come with benefits, including “rewards, raffles, exclusive access to other cryptocurrency assets, and the support of a community wallet with funds to be used for marketing the NFTs.”
It was advertised that the project would feature a $500,000 marketing budget to “support the Mutant Ape Planet NFTs and increase demand (and thereby the value) of the Mutant Ape Planet NFTs.”
Project developers also made vague promises about acquiring “metaverse land” for the NFT project, according to authorities.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace commented, “As alleged, the defendant used a traditional criminal scheme to defraud consumers eager to participate in a new digital asset market. Protection from fraud and manipulation extends to all consumers and investors, including those participating in the fast-evolving market for NFTs and other crypto assets.”
The filing alleges that Michel used the pseudonym “James” in Discord chats and eventually admitted to the fraud. The federal authorities allege that Michel was determined to be the person known as “James” through the use of an unidentified cryptocurrency exchange’s Know Your Customer information for an account allegedly linked to one of the cryptocurrency wallets used to drain the project’s coffers.
“As alleged, the defendant used a traditional criminal scheme to defraud consumers eager to participate in a new digital asset market,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in the press release.
“Protection from fraud and manipulation extends to all consumers and investors, including those participating in the fast-evolving market for NFTs and other crypto assets. Our Office is committed to bringing to justice any criminal actor abusing markets for their gain.”
About the author
Sharan Kaur Phillora’s thirst for knowledge has led her to study many different subjects, including NFTs and Blockchain technology – two emerging technologies that will change how we interact with each other in the future. When she isn’t exploring a new idea or concept, she enjoys reading literary masterpieces.