Mutant Ape Planet NFT Developer Busted for Rug Pull Scam

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on January 6, 2023

Aurelien Michel, developer of the Mutant Ape Planet NFT, was arrested Wednesday night at John F. Kennedy International Airport, on federal charges of defrauding purchasers of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs of more than $2.9 million in cryptocurrency. It wasn’t specified whether Michel was departing or arriving, but he is a French national who lives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A classic ‘rug pull’: According to federal investigators, Michel launched his Mutant Ape collection in early 2022, selling the cartoon apes for the equivalent of about $430 apiece. The website for the project promised that buyers would get a wide range of benefits as sales progressed, including raffles and rewards funded by the sale of the collection. But prosecutors say that instead of continuing to develop the collection and offer purchasers the rewards he promised, Michel abandoned the project and made off with the proceeds for personal use – the so-called “rug pull” scam.

Michel confesses but blames everyone else: Federal prosecutors alleged that in a social media chat between Michel and both current and prospective purchasers, Michel admitted to the “rug pull” but insisted that had not been his intent when he created the NFT.

“We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic,” Michel wrote.

New industry, age old scams: Federal investigators, in written statements, underscored that while digital assets are novel, the scams being perpetrated are long established.

“As alleged, the defendant used a traditional criminal scheme to defraud consumers eager to participate in a new digital asset market,” stated Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  “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.”

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is an Editor-at-Large at Grit Daily. He is available to record live, old-school style interviews via Zoom, and run them at Grit Daily and Apple News, or BlockTelegraph for a fee.Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked as a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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