The U.S. government has arrested and charged the creator of non-fungible tokens (NFT) “Mutant Ape Planet“for allegedly defrauding crypto-currency investors,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) described, adding that millions of dollars in crypto-currencies were diverted for the personal benefit of the NFT creator.
DOJ takes action against NFT Rug Pull system
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday that Aurelien Michel has been charged with “defrauded buyers of NFT ‘Mutant Ape Planet,’ a type of digital asset, of more than $2.9 million in crypto-currency“.
The defendant is a French national residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He was arrested Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Mutant Ape Planet (MAP) NFTs were marketed and sold with false promises of numerous rewards and benefits, including exclusive opportunities for additional investments, gifts, merchandise and other rewards, the DOJ detailed:
After selling the NFTs, the buyers were “pulled from the carpet“… Millions of crypto-currencies from NFT buyers were misappropriated for the personal benefit of Aurelien Michel.
Mutant Ape Planet is a collection of 6,799 unique mutant monkeys that is unrelated to the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club, a different monkey-themed NFT set.
Ivan J. Arvelo, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, described, “Aurelien Michel perpetrated a rug pull scheme – stealing nearly $3 million from investors for his personal use“.
The DOJ noted that in a social media discussion with current and potential buyers, Aurelien Michel admitted the “rug pull” fraud, but blamed the NFT buying community for his actions, stating, “Aurelien Michel.
While the NFT developers of Mutant Ape Planet “Have promised to fund a community portfolio for marketing and offer raffles, gifts, drops and tokens with staking features to buyers“, the DOJ stated:
Purchasers of Mutant Ape Planet’s NFTs did not receive any of the benefits promised above.