Mutant Ape Planet founder allegedly defrauded customers of $2.9 million

Quick Take

  • Aurelien Michel, the founder of the “Mutant Ape Planet” NFT project, allegedly defrauded customers of $2.9 million. 
  • Michel purportedly promised NFT holders would receive rewards and that the token would increase in value, but ended up pocketing the funds for personal use.

A federal court in Brooklyn charged Aurelien Michel with crimes related to defrauding customers of the NFT project "Mutant Ape Planet" out of $2.9 million. 

Michel allegedly promised to design ways for the NFTs to grow in value and that buyers would receive rewards for holding their NFTs. However, Michel purportedly ended up pocketing the $2.9 million in user funds for personal use.

In later social media chats with customers, Michel admitted to "rugging" — crypto slang for when developers raise funds designed for a project but disappear with the money — but said it was due to the toxic NFT community.

"We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic," Michel was quoted as saying according to a Department of Justice release.


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"As alleged, Aurelien Michel perpetrated a ‘rug pull’ scheme — stealing nearly $3 million from investors for his own personal use,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, a Homeland Security special agent, in a DOJ statement. "Purchasers of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs thought they were investing in a trendy new collectible, but they were deceived and received none of the promised benefits."

Michel is a French national of the United Arab Emirates. He was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. 

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

MK Manoylov has been a reporter for The Block since 2020 — joining just before bitcoin surpassed $20,000 for the first time. Since then, MK has written nearly 1,000 articles for the publication, covering any and all crypto news but with a penchant toward NFT, metaverse, web3 gaming, funding, crime, hack and crypto ecosystem stories. MK holds a graduate degree from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP) and has also covered health topics for WebMD and Insider. You can follow MK on X @MManoylov and on LinkedIn.


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