French national pleads guilty to knock-off MAYC NFT fraud
- Aurelien Michel has pleaded guilty to defrauding investors.
- He has agreed to pay $1.4 million in restitution.
The creator of the Mutant Ape Planet non-fungible token (NFT) collection, Aurelien Michel, a French national, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a New York federal court.
The Mutant Ape Planet NFTs were a knock-off of Yuga Labs’ Mutant Ape Yacht Club (MAYC) project.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced on 14th November that Michel had confessed to orchestrating a “rug pull.”
This resulted in the defrauding of investors to the tune of $3 million linked to the fraudulent Mutant Ape Planet NFTs.
Artificial demand and rug pull touted as charges
The Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors revealed that Michel and his co-conspirators falsely marketed the NFTs to investors by promising rewards and benefits. They created artificial demand for the collection.
In a deceptive move, they intentionally failed to deliver on these promises, diverting millions of dollars for their personal benefit.
Thomas M. Fattorusso, the special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation in New York, emphasized the egregious nature of the scheme. He stated,
“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.”
The DOJ disclosed on 5th January that Michel had admitted his involvement in a rug pull via a social media chat with the NFT collection’s community.
He confessed that “we never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic.”
Facing a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison, Michel has agreed to pay $1.4 million in restitution.
The Mutant Ape Planet collection initially comprised 6,797 NFTs minted on the Ethereum [ETH] blockchain. It was once hosted on the NFT platform OpenSea.
In February 2022, the collection witnessed robust sales volume, exceeding 320 Ether. However, by April 2022, this figure had significantly dropped.
By January 2023, around the time of Michel’s arrest, the average price and total sales volume of the collection plummeted to near zero.
NFTs gradually bounce back. Resurgence soon?
Meanwhile, the Mutant Ape Yacht Club volume and price has been gradually picking up over the past 3 months. The Floor price has also slightly increased, with the sales from other NFT collections rising recently.
Additionally, the Crypto Punks NFT collection experienced a remarkable surge in trading volume. It has skyrocketed from $200,000 to an impressive $3 million within the last seven days.
The surge was so impactful that Crypto Punks became the top-selling collection on the Ethereum blockchain, with sales reaching an astounding $20.26 million in the same seven-day period, marking a staggering 924% increase compared to the previous week.