The mastermind behind the famed NFT “rug pull” heist is now, in an unparalleled turn of events in American history, staring down the barrel of federal justice and the threat of a long prison sentence.
Aurelien Michel, a French citizen and the brains behind the Mutant Ape Planet nonfungible token (NFT) collection, has entered a plea of guilt on charges of wire fraud in a New York court, reports disclose Wednesday, referencing the statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Michel’s creation, the Mutant Ape Planet collection, proved to be an illicit mimicry of Yuga Labs’ Mutant Ape Yacht Club initiative. Michel orchestrated a scheme that swindled investors out of a staggering $3 million in connection with the fraudulent collection.
Nonfungible Token (NFT) Developer Pleads Guilty to an International Scheme to Defraud NFT Purchasers
— US Attorney EDNY (@EDNYnews) November 14, 2023
The Mutant Ape Creator’s Deception
Within the legal sphere outlined by the New York Department of Justice, Michel and his associates are charged with marketing NFTs that are embellished with false claims of unrivaled advantages and profits, carefully created to enhance the appeal of their holding.
According to prosecutors, Michel and his associates deliberately fell short of fulfilling the commitments they made, redirecting proceeds amounting to millions of dollars for their personal gain.
Thomas M. Fattorusso, the special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation in New York, asserted that despite Michel’s claims of offering NFTs filled with dreamlike rewards and benefits, he duped investors, transforming their aspirations into a harrowing reality of deceit and financial losses.
Total crypto market cap at $1.34 trillion on the 24-hour chart: TradingView.com
OpenSea Gets Rid Of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs
The NFT platform OpenSea has removed the Mutant Ape Planet, which consisted of 6,797 NFTs on the Ethereum Mainnet. Though sales of the fake collection peaked in February 2022 with over 320 ether, the collection’s popularity gradually declined until Michel’s arrest in January this year, when it was almost unknown.
By contrast, one of the most successful NFT endeavors in 2021 was the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC). Making the most of its popularity, the Mutant Ape Yacht Club, a spinoff, enjoyed the benefits of this affiliation. It was during that year that BAYC sold an astounding 276,700 Ethereum (ETH), according to reports.
Mitchell Faces 5 Years Behind Bars
Mitchell conveyed to Mutant Ape buyers that their initial intent was not to orchestrate a “rug pull,” but the community dynamics turned excessively “toxic.”
This admission came after the failure to fulfill promises regarding tokens, inclusive of gifts, merchandise collections, and staking features, all of which had been previously assured as benefits within the realm of NFT collecting.
The market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) was worth $16 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $212 billion by 2030, expanding at a CAGR of 34% during the period from 2023 to 2030. The market was valued at $16 billion in 2021.
Upon being convicted, Michel is subject to a potential prison sentence of five years and has consented to making a reparation payment of $1.4 million.
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