French National Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Customers Related to “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs
Last week, Aurelien Michel, a French national who had been residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), pled guilty in Brooklyn, New York to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with defrauding purchasers of “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Michel and his co-conspirators marketed the NFTs to purchasers by falsely promising them numerous rewards and benefits designed to increase demand for, and the value of, their newly acquired NFTs. But Michel and his co-conspirators intentionally failed to deliver on these promises, diverting millions of dollars’ worth of proceeds for their personal benefit while continuing to represent that the benefits would be forthcoming.
“Aurelien Michel enticed investors with promises of capitalizing on the NFT trend, only to abandon the project after amassing nearly $3 million in what’s described as a ‘rug-pull scheme.’ The defendant, accused of misleading the Mutant Ape NFT community, claimed innocence and even labeled victims as ‘too toxic.’ However, these attempts to evade responsibility came to a conclusion with today’s plea,” stated Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York. “In the face of evolving investment landscapes, HSI remains vigilant, utilizing cutting-edge tools to safeguard individuals from unscrupulous actors and their attempts to exploit well-meaning investors.”
“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. 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,” said Thomas M. Fattorusso, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI New York in the DOJ release.
The case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigations and Homeland Security Investigations with support from the New York Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police, and Nassau County Sheriff’s Department. The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York prosecuted the case.
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