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A criminal complaint has been opened today in federal prison court in Brooklyn charging Aurelien Michel, who is a French national living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with deceiving purchasers of “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs, which is a type of digital asset, of more than $2.9 million in cryptocurrency. His preliminary presence is scheduled for today infront of United States Magistrate Judge James R. Cho after he was arrested last night at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
As part of the scheme, buyers of NFTs were tricked into believing that they would receive a variety of benefits and rewards to inflate the value of their newly acquired NFTs. After selling out, they were “rug pulled” – a crypto fraud where a creator lures in investors, then cuts off contact without any deliverables. In the end, Michel reaped the benefit while investors lost millions worth of cryptocurrency with nothing to show for it. This spam is categorised as a biggest wire fraud under federal prison law.
The charges were announced by Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ivan Arvelo, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York, and Thomas Fattorusso, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS-CI).
The defendant defrauded consumers eager to participate in a new digital asset market using a traditional criminal scheme, according to United States Attorney Peace. Consumers and investors, including those participating in the fast-evolving NFT and crypto asset market, are protected from fraud and manipulation. Criminal actors who abuse markets for their own gain are brought to justice by our Office.”
As alleged, Aurelien Michel engaged in a ‘rug pull’ scheme – allegedly swindling nearly $3 million from investors for his own personal gain. Investors who purchased Mutant Ape Planet NFTs believed they were putting money into a burgeoning collectible item, but instead were duped and did not receive any of the compensation promised. According to Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, HSI combines their deep knowledge of financial crime with advanced cyber capabilities to detect wire fraud and seek justice for those affected as per the federal law.
It’s been stated that Michel shamelessly deceived investors by providing false information relating to gifts, tokens with holding features and merchandise collections. After the NFTs had sold out, he reportedly disappeared with over three million dollars of their money, according to IRS-CI Fattorusso. The arrest of Michel signifies that he can no longer hold the NFT community accountable for his liability; the consequences of his actions are now on him.
As alleged in the criminal complaint, Mutant Ape Planet NFTs were digital assets stored on the Ethereum blockchain. Each token was unique and allowed buyers exclusive ownership, with promises of additional investments, giveaways, merchandise and rewards. Unfortunately, purchasers received nothing for their cryptocurrencies, which had been diverted to wallets controlled by Aurelien Michel. In total, more than $2.9 million was stolen as part of Michel’s scheme.
During a chat on social media with present and potential purchasers, Michel had admitted to the wire fraud, but blamed the NFT community for its toxic nature, stating, “We never intended to rug, but the community went too far.”
Charges specified in the objection are just allegations yet, and the defendant is considered not guilty until and unless proven guilty.
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