A 24-year-old French man who created “Mutant Ape Planet” NFTs is facing federal charges in Brooklyn. He is accused of defrauding customers of $2.9 million.
In a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, prosecutors allege Aurelien Michel lured eager purchasers of Mutant Ape Planet NFTs with false promises of exclusive raffles, a community crypto wallet, and land in Facebook’s Metaverse.
Some of those customers lived in New York’s Eastern District, which spans Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.
After selling 9,999 ape NFTs in four days last February, Michel transferred the $2.9 million he’d amassed to his own crypto-wallets, according to the federal complaint written by Kayla Blades, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security.
He was cuffed at JFK Airport on Wednesday night and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cho Thursday in Brooklyn Federal Court. Michel was deemed a flight risk, said John Marzulli, a spokesperson for the Eastern District, and was being detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn while his attorneys prepared a request for bail.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace promised fraud would be prosecuted even in the rapidly evolving markets for crypto and NFTs.