Aurelien Michel, the founder of Mutant Ape Planet, was detained by federal authorities this week on suspicion of operating an “NFT rug pull” scam. There’s a chance Michel committed other frauds.
A well-known blockchain analyst named ZachXBT claimed on Friday that Michel had used on-chain data to steal millions of dollars from numerous similar frauds.
ZachXBT connected Fashion Ape NFT and Crazy Camels, two well-known NFT rug pulls, to Michel’s Binance address.
The creators of an NFT project frequently sell thousands of NFTs under the guise of related benefits and utility, abandon the project (typically deleting Discord, Twitter, and other social channels), and then steal the money from investors.
Before giving up on the project, the founders of Fashion Ape NFT received $1.1 million from holders, while Crazy Camels received $1.6 million.
Michel, a 24-year-old French national who resides in Dubai, was detained by federal agents on Wednesday at JFK airport in New York City. He was accused of defrauding owners of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs and was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The project, which promised giveaways, tokens with staking features, and merchandise collections, was abruptly abandoned by Michel after earning $2.9 million. The benefits never materialized.
Besides Mutant Ape Planet, Michel’s involvement in any other NFT rug pull schemes was not mentioned in the DOJ’s complaint against Michel, which was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn yesterday.
Using the cryptocurrency account details from the DOJ’s complaint, ZachXBT discovered Michel’s Binance account. There were several allegedly fraudulent NFT projects connected to that account.
The Instagram account of one of the project’s co-founders is linked to Michel’s on the now-defunct Crazy Camels website.
ZachXBT believes that Michel’s alleged coordination of numerous NFT scams using the same publicly traceable accounts demonstrates either a complete lack of concern for the repercussions or complete ignorance of blockchain transaction visibility.
Since they are depositing money into their individual CEX [centralized exchange] accounts and purchasing overpriced NFTs that they flaunt on social media, ZachXBT said that “They [might] not have a basic understanding of how the blockchain works.”
The founder acknowledged having difficult investors in a Mutant Ape Planet Discord channel regarding his Justice Department case against Michel.
“We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic,” Michel allegedly wrote.