Mutant Ape Planet NFT developer charged with fraud in Brooklyn federal court

January 5, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A developer of the NFT known as Mutant Ape Planet was charged in the Eastern District of New York for allegedly defrauding investors of $2.9 million.

Aurelien Michel, a 24-year-old, French national who lives in Dubai, was charged with defrauding purchasers of his non-fungible token (NFT), a type of digital asset, of more than $2.9 million. Michel was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday night and appeared before Magistrate Judge James Cho on Thursday.

“As alleged, the defendant used a traditional criminal scheme to defraud consumers eager to participate in a new digital asset market,” stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. “Protection from fraud and manipulation extends to all consumers and investors, including those participating in the fast-evolving market for NFTs and other crypto assets. Our Office is committed to bringing to justice any criminal actor abusing any markets for their own gain.”

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The U.S. Attorney described the alleged scheme in court papers and claimed that Michel marketed NFTs to purchasers with false promises of numerous rewards and benefits designed to increase the value of their NFTs. However, the U.S. Attorney said, after selling out of the NFTs, the purchasers had the “rug pulled” out from them where Michel allegedly pulled out of the project before fulfilling any of the rewards and benefits which left the NFTs virtually worthless.

Rug pulls have become a common scheme for sellers of NFTs, but this would be one of the biggest ever as it would potentially be bigger than the Big Daddy Ape Club, that allegedly cost investors $1.3 million at the time, the Baller Ape Club, that allegedly cost investors $2.6 million.

According to the court documents, Michel admitted to the fraudulent rug pull in this case, however, he blamed the community of NFT purchasers and said, ““We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic.”

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