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Three UK nationals charged in Evolved Apes NFT scam

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Photo: Sashkin/Shutterstock.com

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the FBI have revealed the unsealing of an indictment against three UK nationals, Mohamed-Amin Atcha, Mohamed Rilaz Waleedh, and Daood Hassan, who are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering tokens (NFTs) in a scheme known as Evolved Apes.

If the indictment proves true, the accused could get a maximum sentence of 20 years. The indictment details allegations that Atcha, Waleedh, and Hassan orchestrated a ‘rug pull’ scam in the fall of 2021. This type of fraud involves developers promoting a digital project, collecting funds from investors, and then abandoning the project while keeping the investors’ money. The defendants are accused of creating and marketing an NFT collection called ‘Evolved Apes,’ featuring digital images of cartoon apes.

Publicly, the trio promised that funds raised from the NFT sales would be used to develop a videogame based on NFTs, increasing the value of the digital assets. However, after selling the NFTs and amassing significant funds, the project’s website was abruptly shut down, and the game development never materialised.

The indictment alleges that Atcha, Waleedh, and Hassan misappropriated the funds and laundered money through multiple cryptocurrency transactions to conceal their illicit gains.

“Digital art may be new, but old rules still apply: making false promises for money is illegal.  As we allege, thousands of people believed these false promises and were tricked into buying these NFTs, including here in the Southern District of New York.  NFT fraud is no game, and those responsible will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken and is being prosecuted by the Office’s Illicit Finance and Money Laundering Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel L. Raymond and Josiah Pertz lead the prosecution.

A few days back, Microsoft India’s X account was hacked to promote a crypto scam, a situation that had happened with Mandiant, a security firm, in January 2024.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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