DOJ Charges Two 20-year-olds in a $1.1 Million NFT Alleged Scam

Scams like the so-called NFT rug pull often harm investors in trendy new projects. As a pair of NFT inventors recently discovered, the pseudonymous nature of the crypto space does not guarantee that alleged criminals will disappear without repercussions.

In connection with a bitcoin rug pull conspiracy, two men were charged by the US Department of Justice with fraud and money laundering on Friday, March 25, 2022.

In their alleged scheme, André Llacuna and Ethan Nguyen sold non-fungible tokens based on snowman-like characters called “Frosties.” It is estimated that they earned approximately $1.1 million since the introduction of their Frosties NFTs.

Frosties NFTs Flying Off The Shelves

Frosties are available on the OpenSea secondary market for as little as 0.001 ETH (about $3). Initially, they were sold for 0.04 Ethereum, which was equal to about $112 at minting.

It was a highly anticipated initiative that sold 8,888 NFTs within an hour after its public debut.

Along with this offer, consumers would receive exclusive giveaways, access to a metaverse-based game utilizing 3D avatars, and passes to future seasons of NFTs.

However, authorities claim that on Jan. 9, Nguyen and Llacuna abandoned their conspiracy initiative and transferred $1.1 million in bitcoin proceeds to other crypto wallets they are managing.

According to officials, the two were advertising for a second, identical initiative called “Embers” which was planned to begin later this week when they were arrested in Los Angeles.

As part of its roadmap, Ember includes a $50,000 donation to charity and a community wallet where a quarter of the proceeds of the initial sale will go – which, while the Red Cross acknowledged receiving it, seems even more unlikely hence triggering more doubt. 

First NFT Rug Pull Defendants 

Llacuna (aka “… heyandre”) and Nguyen (aka “Frostie” and other pseudonyms) are among the first criminal defendants in the rug pull crime era. The case could be a turning point for the NFT, which is expected to generate approximately $25 billion in trading volume by 2021.

Typically, a rug pull describes situations in which a project author starts by making false claims about the future and also many other great psychological triggering benefits but disappears with the funds. In most cases, as a result of this action, the NFTs in question lose a lot of value because they have a low likelihood of future benefits and doubts of their real worth. 

According to a press release issued by US Attorney Damian Williams, Mr. Llacuna and Mr. Nguyen initially sold Frosties NFTs to many investors. They promised the investors their benefits, but after they sold out, they completely shut down the website and transferred all the funds.

The US Justice Department recently announced that it would increase its focus on digital asset crimes by establishing a national cryptocurrency enforcement team to check and see to the criminal actions – rug pull and other scams on the NFT marketplace harmful to investors.

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