Last year, French national Michel Aurelien, who was inspired by the BAYC collections’ success, founded the Mutant Ape variation.
Although his own version was in no way endorsed or approved by YugaLabs, it nonetheless became somewhat popular in just a few months.
Misleading From The Start
Unfortunately for investors of the project – which has since been removed from OpenSea – it was short-lived. Unlike other failed projects, which often met their end due to poorly drawn-out financial models or getting hacked, the Mutant Ape collection “decided to rugpull” after announcing that the community “had become too toxic.”
However, it turns out this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the founder and his team had never intended to make good on their promises, having a rugpull in mind from the start. The Mutant Ape collection promised buyers future investment opportunities, merch, extra perks, and so on at a certain point. These promises never materialized.
Back in January, Aurelien was arrested by Homeland Security Investigation agents at the JFK Airport and accused of defrauding investors. Nearly a year later, Aurelien has pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Nonfungible Token (NFT) Developer Pleads Guilty to an International Scheme to Defraud NFT Purchasers
— US Attorney EDNY (@EDNYnews) November 14, 2023
Forfeiture And Possible Jail Time
According to the DOJ, the defendant faces up to five years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud worth approximately $3 million.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace reaffirmed his office’s commitment to protecting investors from bad actors, whether the fraud takes place in the crypto sphere or elsewhere.
“With today’s guilty plea, Michel has admitted that he conspired with others to defraud consumers eager to participate in a new digital asset market. Our Office is acutely aware that criminal actors are taking advantage of the constant pace of innovation in the digital asset space and the investing public’s desire to become involved in cryptocurrency to perpetrate large-scale frauds. Holding these criminal actors accountable and protecting the public is, and will remain, a priority of this Office.”
Similar statements were also made by Homeland Security Investigation agents in New York, where the case was prosecuted.
Aurelien’s sentencing will take place at a later date. In the meantime, he has agreed to pay $1.4 million to victims of the rugpull in asset forfeiture. The fate of the remaining $1.6 million is unknown.