The creator of the Mutant Ape Planet NFT collection has been arrested in New York and charged with defrauding investors of $2.9 million in a rug pull scheme. Aurelien Michel was taken into custody on January 4th at JFK Airport by Homeland Security Agent Ivan J. Arvelo, who accused Michel of stealing the funds for his own personal use.
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service Agent Thomas Fattorusso stated that Michel “defrauded investors by making false representations of, amongst other things, giveaways, tokens with staking features, and merchandise collections.” It is alleged that Michel withdrew the funds once the non-fungible tokens (NFTs) were sold out, after which he admitted to the community via social media chat that he had perpetrated a rug pull, stating “we never intended to rug but the community went way too toxic.”
The Mutant Ape Planet collection is a knock-off of the popular Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFT collection and consists of 6,797 NFTs stored on the Ethereum blockchain. The collection has generated a total of 567 Ether in sales, but its average price and sales volume have plummeted since its launch in January 2022.
Holders of the Mutant Ape Planet collection have taken to Twitter to share their experiences, stating that Michel had attempted to blame his departure on the community becoming skeptical due to a lack of activity. According to a report from DappRadar, rug pulls, or exit scams where project creators suddenly abandon or withdraw liquidity from the platform, were the most common type of attack in 2022, accounting for 119 incidents and $200 million in stolen funds.
Influencer and former adult film star Lana Rhoades was also accused of being behind a significant rug pull in 2022, after reportedly walking away with $1.5 million from the minting of an NFT project that has seen less than 1 Ether worth of secondary market sales since its launch in February of that year.