The information quickly circulated on specialized information networks: the arrest in the United States on January 5, 2023 of a 24-year-old Frenchman, suspected of being the cause of a fraud of 3 M $ in cryptocurrencies. The suspect, Aurélien Michel, was arrested by Homeland Security agents at JFK airport in New York as he attempted to return to the United Arab Emirates, where he lives.
1/ The arrest of Aurelien Michel (@aureiienmichou) shows how incompetent and amateurish some criminals really can be.
Michel is a French citizen who resided in the UAE. He founded the Mutant Ape Planet NFT collection and defrauded his community of $2.9 million. pic.twitter.com/Woi8ngFPT7
— Muqsit Haider (@MHofIRP) 7 January 2023
In Brittany, the young man is not completely unknown. Son of former Guinean footballer Coco Michel, he himself played for several clubs, notably Guingamp and Lannion. In 2017, he announced that he would retire from football to devote himself to “a commercial career”.
The scam the Breton would be involved in is relatively technical: it involves a collection of NFTs called Mutant Ape Planet. That would have allowed him to collect $2.9 million to the detriment of his community. A “rug pull” in cryptocurrency jargon. In short: a theft that, for its organizer, consists in disappearing with its investors’ money.
Aurélien Michel was presented before a New York judge on January 5, 2023. His arrest had been authorized by the Honorable Judge James R. Cho the day before, based on arguments presented by the Homeland Security special agent in charge of the investigation. He is accused of having, between December 2021 and December 2022, “intentionally devised a scheme or art to defraud individual cryptocurrency holders in order to obtain money or goods from them by means of one or more materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises” , the official document details.
— Jakes Nfts (@jakes_nfts) 6 January 2023
In EAG jersey on his Twitter account
Special Agent Kayla Blades explained to the judge that she specializes in investigating cryptocurrency fraud and in particular the mysterious “non-fungible tokens.” It is a special unit dedicated to the investigation of the dark web (the underground Internet), which began to take an interest in the Mutant Ape Planet in April 2022. The investigation established, the special agent assures to justify the arrest du Français, that he provided $2.9 M to his account, after promising his community that they would receive “subsequent benefits and rewards, as well as exclusive access to other cryptocurrency assets.”
Investigators have been gathering the numerical clues to identify the suspect and confuse him. The special agent notes that the arrested person is the same one who opened the Twitter account @aureiienmichou in 2014, where the young man poses for a profile picture with his En Avant Guingamp jersey.
He denies having intended to deceive
He also writes that “During a discussion on social media with current and potential buyers, Michel admitted to embezzling funds, but blamed the NFT buying community for his actions, saying: “We never intended to embezzle funds, but the community is became far too toxic. .”