Aurelien Michel, implicated in electronic fraud related to the NFT project “Mutant Ape Planet”, could face 5 years in prison. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace revealed that Michel’s guilty plea acknowledges conspiracy to defraud consumers. Amid efforts to combat market manipulation, authorities are highlighting the priority of holding criminals accountable.
In a US court, Aurelien Michel, the creator of the “Mutant Ape Planet” non-fungible tokens (NFT), admitted his guilt for defrauding investors.
“Today’s proceedings took place before Federal Judge Vera M. Scanlon. When sentenced, Michel faces up to five years in prison. “Michel also agreed to pay $1.4 million in forfeiture,” the statement said.
On November 14, US Attorney EDNY posted the following on X:
“Nonfungible Token (NFT) Developer Pleads Guilty to an International Scheme to Defraud NFT Purchasers. Aurelien Michel Conspired to Steal From Purchasers of “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs Through False Promises and Misrepresentations
NFT Scammer Expected to Receive Prison Sentence
According to Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors, Michel and his accomplices marketed the NFTs to investors by falsely promising rewards and benefits designed to increase demand for the collection.
Prosecutors said Michel and his associates “intentionally failed to deliver on these promises, diverting millions of dollars in profits for their personal benefit.”
“While Michel purported to sell dream NFTs backed by rewards and benefits, he defrauded investors, turning their dream into a nightmare of deception and loss,” said Thomas M. Fattorusso, special agent in charge of the IRS criminal investigation in New York.
“There is no excuse for this kind of greed, and today’s guilty plea brings Michel one step closer to realizing his own nightmare behind bars.”
Michel was arrested in New York on January 4, 2023, on charges related to the scheme. The DOJ said on Jan. 5 that Michel admitted to the NFT collection community through a social media chat that he perpetrated a rug pull, saying “we never intended to make a rug, but the community became too toxic.”
In a recent statement from the United States Attorney’s Office in New York, it is revealed that Michel could face prison after admitting his deliberate act of defrauding investors in the Mutant Ape Planet NFT project. Federal Attorney Breon Peace stated the following:
“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.”
Meanwhile, the statement emphasizes that authorities are actively persisting in their efforts to detain individuals seeking to manipulate the digital asset market and deceive investors for personal financial gain:
“Holding these criminal actors accountable and protecting the public is, and will continue to be, a priority of this Office.”
Recent FBI Warning Against NFT Scams
This comes shortly after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning about the increasing number of NFT scams in recent times. On August 7, a digital outlet reported that scams are progressing in sophistication and increasingly leaving victims in the dark.
“Unfortunately, criminals are becoming more sophisticated and using the surge in interest in NFTs to target innocent enthusiasts.”
The Mutant Ape Planet collection, which has been removed from the OpenSea NFT platform, originally consisted of 6,797 NFTs minted on the Ethereum blockchain.
In February 2022, it boasted a sales volume of over 320 Ether, which decreased significantly in April 2022, two months later. By January 2023, around the time of Michel’s arrest, the average price and total sales volume of the collection had decreased to almost zero.
By Audy Castaneda