If you thought NFT Joke (opens in new tab) was over in 2022, think again. Mutant Ape Planet NFTs (opens in new tab) founder Aurelien Michel, a French national living in the UAE, was arrested at New York’s JFK Airport for an alleged $2.9 million rug haul — a crime he says was committed because “the community was getting way too toxic.”
According to the criminal complaint (opens in new tab) (spotted by web3isgoinggreat (opens in new tab)) which was unsealed last week, Michel reportedly staged a “back pull” on the buyers, promising benefits and rewards for their NFT purchases, but ran off with the money after the collection sold out.
“As alleged, Aurelien Michel perpetrated a back pull scheme in which he stole nearly $3 million from investors for his own personal use. Buyers of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs thought they were investing in a trendy new collectible, but they were misled and not getting any of the promised benefits,” wrote Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations.
The Complaint of 16 pages (opens in new tab) claims that Michel “made false representations of giveaways, tokens with staking functions, and merchandise collections, among other things.” The NY District Attorney alleges that once the NFTs sold out, _____ “cut off communication and withdrew the buyers’ money from the company’s cryptocurrency wallets, filling its pockets with nearly $3 million in investor money.”
Michel allegedly admitted to scamming users in the official MAP Discord under the username ‘James’ and said: ‘It was never our intention to [pull]But the community went way too toxic.”
“Michel can no longer blame the NFT community for his criminal behavior,” said IRS Special Agent Thomas Fattorusso. “His arrest means he now faces the consequences of his own actions.”
On a side note, Mutant Ape Planet has no relation to Bored Ape Yacht Club, another set of monkey-themed NFTs.
If you are a victim of this scam, call the HSI Tip Line at 1-866-347-2423.