A guilty plea to charges of wire fraud exposes the developer of the Mutant Ape Planet NFT collection to a maximum of five years in prison.
In a New York federal court, the developer of the Mutant Ape Planet nonfungible token (NFT) collection, which imitated the Mutant Ape Yacht Club initiative by Yuga Labs, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The Eastern District of New York United States Attorney’s Office announced in a statement on November 14 that French national Aurelien Michel pleaded guilty to masterminding a “rug pull” and confessed to stealing $3 million from investors in connection with the illegitimate Mutant Ape Planet NFTs.
Nonfungible Token (NFT) Developer Pleads Guilty to an International Scheme to Defraud NFT Purchasers— US Attorney EDNY (@EDNYnews) November 14, 2023
Aurelien Michel Conspired to Steal From Purchasers of “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs Through False Promises and Misrepresentations@HSINewYork @IRSCI_NY https://t.co/K3CzIb8dQD
Michel and his accomplices, as indicted by prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ), engaged in the fraudulent promotion of NFTs to investors through the assurance of rewards and benefits to stimulate demand for the collection.
Michel and his associates, according to prosecutors, “intentionally failed to deliver on these promises, diverting millions of dollars’ worth of proceeds for their personal benefit.”
“While Michel purported to sell dream NFTs backed with rewards and benefits, he defrauded investors, turning their dream into a nightmare of deception and losses,” stated Thomas M. Fattorusso, special agent in command of the criminal investigation for the Internal Revenue Service in New York.
“There is no excusing this kind of greed, and today’s guilty plea brings Michel one step closer to realizing his own nightmare — behind bars.”
Michel was apprehended in New York on January 4, 2023, on suspicion of participating in the conspiracy. Michel admitted to the NFT collection’s community via a social media conversation on January 5 that he had pulled a rug and stated, “We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic.”
Michel has agreed to dole out $1.4 million in restitution and is subject to a maximum penitentiary term of five years upon sentencing. Subsequent to its removal from the NFT platform OpenSea, the Mutant Ape Planet collection comprised 6,797 NFTs initially generated on the Ethereum blockchain.
As of February 2022, its value exceeded 320 Ether ETH in sales volume, which experienced a substantial decline by April 2022, a span of two months.
The collection had experienced a significant decline in average price and total sales volume by January 2023, coinciding with Michel’s arrest.