Aurelien Michel, the brains behind the ill-fated Mutant Ape Planet NFT collection, has admitted guilt to wire fraud charges, marking the first-ever conviction of an NFT “rug pull” schemer in the United States.
The nft collection has been taken down from Opensea. Source: https://opensea.io/?show_ip_rights_delisted_notice=collection
The 25-year old, arrested at JFK Airport in January, faces a potential five-year sentence and a $1.4 million forfeiture.
Michel confessed to conspiring to commit wire fraud, defrauding Mutant Ape NFT holders of nearly $3 million.
The rug pull tactic involves creators selling NFTs with false promises, only to vanish with investors’ funds.
Federal prosecutors revealed that Michel explicitly admitted to rug pulling Mutant Ape Planet holders.
Initially residing in the UAE, the French citizen Michel cited community toxicity as the reason for the rug pull, reneging on promised giveaways, merchandise, and staking tokens.
This revelation unfolded after his arrest at JFK Airport, making his NFT project the third accused of executing a rug pull by federal authorities.
Michel, facing potential federal imprisonment, has agreed to pay $1.4 million in forfeiture, underscoring the severity of his actions.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace emphasised the acknowledgement of Michel’s conspiracy to defraud eager participants in the digital asset market.
Shortly after Michel’s arrest, evidence emerged linking him to other NFT rug pulls, including Fashion Ape NFT and Crazy Camels.
Despite these connections, Michel remains uncharged in relation to these projects. Notably, two prior NFT rug pull cases involving Frosties NFT and Baller Ape Club NFT are yet to be resolved.
The cases against the founders of Frosties NFT and Baller Ape Club NFT, charged for defrauding investors, remain pending. The Department of Justice has not provided updates on these matters.
These cases, involving millions of dollars in losses, highlight the challenges authorities face in tackling fraud in the rapidly evolving digital asset space.