'Mutant Ape Planet' NFT Developer Pleaded Guilty in $3M Fraud

French developer Aurelien Michel pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court and agreed to pay $1.4M, according to prosecutors.

AccessTimeIconNov 14, 2023 at 8:03 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 14, 2023 at 8:10 p.m. UTC

The developer behind the Mutant Ape Planet non-fungible token (NFT) collection – a knockoff of the Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs – pleaded guilty on Tuesday to defrauding buyers in a rug pull that netted almost $3 million, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Aurelien Michel, a French citizen who lived in the United Arab Emirates, was arrested earlier this year in New York. He faces up to five years in prison and has agreed to pay $1.4 million in forfeiture, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

“Our office is acutely aware that criminal actors are taking advantage of the constant pace of innovation in the digital asset space and the investing public’s desire to become involved in cryptocurrency to perpetrate large-scale frauds," said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

When the Mutant Ape Planet buyers began realizing they'd been duped by the developers, authorities say that Michel, posting under the pseudonym “James”, admitted to the rug pull in the community’s Discord channel.

“We never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic,” the developer posting as “James” wrote. “I recognize that our behavior led to this.”

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.