Aurelien Michel, the founder of Mutant Ape Planet, was charged with scamming $2.9 million in clients of the NFT project "Mutant Ape Planet" in federal court in Brooklyn.
Aurelien Michel, a French resident living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was accused of defrauding buyers of "Mutant Ape Planet" NFTs, a type of digital asset, of more than $2.9 million in cryptocurrencies today in federal court in Brooklyn.
The accused was taken into custody last night at John F. Kennedy International Airport. His initial court appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge James R. Cho.
As alleged, Aurelien Michel perpetrated a ‘rug pull’ scheme – stealing nearly $3 million from investors for his own personal use. Purchasers of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs thought they were investing in a trendy new collectible, but they were deceived and received none of the promised benefits, HSI uses our extensive experience investigating financial crime in conjunction with our cutting edge cyber capabilities to uncover fraud and bring the perpetrators to justice.
-said Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York
Michel had previously committed to coming up with plans to increase the value of NFTs and reward holders. But he is believed to have spent $2.9 million of the user payments on himself.
Mutant Ape Planet NFTs were advertised with claims of special benefits that customers would get. These advantages included exclusive chances to make extra investments, giveaways, gifts, and other perks.
After paying their cryptocurrencies and receiving the NFT, buyers, however, received nothing because their funds were transferred from the Mutant Ape Planet NFT project to wallets under the defendant Aurelien Michel's control. The total amount of cryptocurrencies stolen as part of Michel's plan was more than $2.9 million.
Michel admitted "rug pull," a term for developers who take money for a project but then flee with it, in later social media exchanges with clients. Michel, however, asserted that the toxic NFT community was to blame.
"We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic."
-Michel quoted in a Department of Justice release