Creator of Mutant Ape ripoff NFTs pleads guilty to $3M fraud scheme

The creator of the Mutant Ape Planet nonfungible token (NFT) collection — a knock-off of Yuga Labs’ Mutant Ape Yacht Club project — has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a New York federal court.

In a Nov. 14 statement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said French national Aurelien Michel pleaded guilty to executing a “rug pull” and admitted to defrauding investors out of $3 million in connection with the fraudulent Mutant Ape Planet NFTs.

Nonfungible Token (NFT) Developer Pleads Guilty to an International Scheme to Defraud NFT Purchasers

Aurelien Michel Conspired to Steal From Purchasers of “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs Through False Promises and Misrepresentations@HSINewYork @IRSCI_NY

— US Attorney EDNY (@EDNYnews) November 14, 2023

According to Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors, Michel and his co-conspirators marketed the NFTs to investors by falsely promising them rewards and benefits designed to increase the demand for the collection.

Prosecutors said Michel and his associates “intentionally failed to deliver on these promises, diverting millions of dollars’ worth of proceeds for their personal benefit.”

“While Michel purported to sell dream NFTs backed with rewards and benefits, he defrauded investors, turning their dream into a nightmare of deception and losses,” said Thomas M. Fattorusso, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation in New York.

“There is no excusing this kind of greed, and today’s guilty plea brings Michel one step closer to realizing his own nightmare — behind bars.”

Michel was arrested in New York on Jan. 4, 2023, on charges related to the scheme. The DOJ said on Jan. 5 that Michel admitted to the NFT collection’s community via a social media chat that he perpetrated a rug pull and said “we never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic.”

Upon sentencing, Michel faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and has agreed to pay $1.4 million in…


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