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Perpetrator of Mutant Ape Planet NFT Rug Pull Convicted for Wire Fraud Charges

The creator of Mutant Ape Planet’s non-fungible token (NFT), Aurelien Michel, pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud charges. The rug pull orchestrator admitted on Tuesday, November 14, to the fraud and faces five-year incarceration in a US federal prison.

The conviction of Michel marks the initial time that an NFT rug pull architect is convicted of a fraudulent scheme. The twenty-five-year-old is identified as the founder of the collapsed Mutant Ape Planet NFT collection. Michel pleaded guilty to orchestrating the wire fraud charges in a Brooklyn-based federal courthouse.

Federal Authorities Unmask Mutant Ape Planet Creator 

Michel was battling wire fraud charges, leaving Mutant Ape NFT holders losing $3 million. The Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed that Michel is facing a five-year maximum sentence while agreeing to forfeit $1.4 million.

The law enforcement officers arrested Michel at the JFK Airport in New York. His arrest in January made the NFT project third for executing a rug pull scheme. The federal authorities described rug pull as an ‘insider’ scheme where the creators of the NFT project dispose of them while promising community benefits. 

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Also, the rug pull orchestrators promise financial perks and utility to attract more holders to buy into the project. Unfortunately, the creators secretly abandoned the project, wasting the holders’ funds.

The federal prosecutors unmasked Michel as a French man residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In an explicit disclosure to the Mutant Ape Planet holders of rug pulling them, the French citizen would.

Michel admitted that the NFT project creators never harbored plants to rug but would later discover the community became excessively toxic. Michel admitted informing the Mutant Ape buyers of the action was an afterthought. 

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Michel would later fail to honor giveaways, tokens, and merchandise collections harboring staking features earlier guaranteed as the perks attributed to the NFT collections. 

Mutant Ape Planet NFT Creator Plead Guilty

The guilty plea undertaken by Michel affirmed his conspiracy alongside others to defraud the Mutant Ape Planet NFT consumers. The US attorney, Breon Peace, indicated that the fraudster leveraged the consumers’ desire to participate in the crypto asset market.

The attorney’s office admitted acute awareness that the criminal actors were exploiting the constant pace portrayed by innovation within the cryptocurrency asset space. The fraudsters tapped on the public desire to become involved in cryptocurrency and, thus, are susceptible to large-scale frauds.

Detailed scrutiny following Michel’s arrest in January by on-chain analyst ZachXBT yielded evidence that linked the convicted entrepreneur to other NFT rug pulls. The analyst firm linked Michel to Fashion Ape NFT, involved in collecting $1.1 million before it went dark.  

Also, ZachXBT connected the convict with the Crazy Camels rug pull that sank with $1.6 million from unsuspecting holders. Nonetheless, Michel has yet to face charges concerning the collapsed projects.

Federal Authorities Firm Action to Mitigate NFT-based Rug Pull Scheme

Meanwhile, the federal authorities have in the past taken a solid stance to mitigate rug pull schemes. The federal prosecutors have portrayed this mandate in opening charges on the two rug pull cases.

The initial charges targeted the creators behind the Frosties NFT project, Ethan Nguyen and Andre Llacuna, following their arrest in March 2022. The two were charged for selling 8888 NFTs, translating to $1.1 million in Ethereum (ETH) earnings. The duo terminated the project’s discord channel, defrauding the Frosties NFT holders.

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The second case involved the Baller Ape Club NFT collection founder, Le Anh Traun. The prosecutors indicated that the Vietnamese national earned $2.6 million from unsuspecting Baller Ape NFT buyers. The founder would immediately terminate the organization’s website to disappear with the funds.

The conviction of Michel echoes the federal government’s resolve to pursue orchestrators of fraud. Like the Baller Ape case, Michel’s arrest and conviction involved a national enforcement action coordinated by the DoJ, Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Michel’s conviction portrays the federal authorities’ willingness to pursue the con artists hiding behind trendy buzzwords to defraud individuals of their money. It also necessitates the federal authorities to team up in educating and protecting investors regarding fraud concealed in trendy investments such as Michel’s Mutant Ape Planet NFT scheme.


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Stephen Causby

Stephen Causby is an experienced crypto journalist who writes for Tokenhell. He is passionate for coverage in crypto news, blockchain, DeFi, and NFT.

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