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.
"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.
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