- Mutant Ape Planet NFT creator, Aurelien Michel, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud over the project
- Michel confessed to breaking promises and diverting $3 million from buyers
- He faces up to five years in prison and a $1.4 million forfeiture when sentenced
Mutant Ape Planet NFT creator Aurelien Michel yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud after conducting a rug pull that cost buyers $3 million in the process. Michel has admitted to making promises over the project that he had no intention of keeping and diverted the funds to himself, but his actions were documented by crypto sleuths and Michel was reported to the authorities. When sentenced, Michel faces up to five years in prison and has also agreed to pay $1.4 million in forfeiture.
Broken Promises Ended in a Rug Pull
Michel had promoted Mutant Ape Planet NFTs as being accompanied by enticing benefits, including exclusive investment opportunities, giveaways, merchandise, and other rewards. However, once purchasers obtained the NFTs, they allegedly received none of the promised benefits. Instead, the crypto they had paid with, which totaled over $2.9 million, was redirected from the Mutant Ape Planet NFT project to cryptocurrency wallets under Michel’s control.
In a social media chat with current and potential purchasers, Michel purportedly admitted to executing a fraudulent “rug pull.” He acknowledged diverting funds but shifted blame to the NFT community, claiming, “We never intended to rug, but the community went way too toxic.” As far as defenses go, stealing people’s money because you didn’t like the community you had allowed to build up is one of the more unique ones we’ve ever seen.
Michel was arrested in January at John F. Kennedy International Airport and seemingly realized that the case against him was too strong. In typically grandiose fashion, the person leading the investigation, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI New York Thomas M. Fattorusso, pointed out how Michel’s plans had gone badly awry:
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.
Indeed, Michel faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced next year and has been ordered to pay back the portion of funds he stole, amounting to $1.4 million.