Mutant Ape knockoff NFT creator pleads guilty to $3 million fraud charge
November 15, 2023 6:46 AM
The French creator of the Mutant Ape Planet NFT collection pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges, which carry a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
The developer of a fake cryptocurrency called Mutant Ape Planet nonfungible tokens (NFTs) has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a federal court in New York.
Aurelien Michel, a French national, pleaded guilty to performing a "rug pull" and admitting to cheating investors out of $3 million in connection with the fake Mutant Ape Planet NFTs, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York on November 14.
Prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) claim that Michel and his accomplices falsely promised investors perks and benefits to drive up demand for the NFTs.
Michel and his friends "intentionally failed to fulfill all of these promises, stealing millions of dollars' worth of earnings for their benefit," according to the prosecution.
A special agent in charge of the IRS criminal investigation in New York, Thomas M. Fattorusso, said that while Michel "purported to sell dream NFTs backed with rewards and benefits," he cheated investors, converting their "dream" into a "nightmare" of deception and losses.
"There is no justification for greed on this scale, and Michel's guilty plea today gets him one step closer to living out his worst nightmare—in prison."
Michel's arrest on related accusations occurred in New York on January 4, 2023. According to the DOJ, Michel revealed to the NFT collection's community via a social media chat on Jan. 5 that he committed a rug pull and stated, "We never intended to rug; however, the community got way too toxic."
Michel has pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail and restitution in the amount of $1.4 million.
6.797 NFTs were originally created on the Ethereum blockchain as part of the Mutant Ape Planet collection; however, they have since been deleted from the NFT platform OpenSea.
Two months later, in April 2022, its sales volume had declined dramatically from its February 2022 high of over 320 Ether (ETH).
Revenue generated by the sale of Mutant Ape Planet NFT products between January 2022 and December 2023.
Michel's arrest in early 2023 coincided with a precipitous decline in the collection's average price and overall sales volume.