Vietnamese-American Le Anh Tuan has been accused of stealing $2.6 million from investors through a non-fungible token scheme.
He was allegedly involved in the Baller Ape Club, a project that purportedly sold NFTs in the form of various cartoon figures, often including the figure of an ape, the Department of Justice said in a recent statement.
Shortly after the first day Baller Ape Club NFTs were publicly sold, Tuan and his co-conspirators engaged in what is known as a “rug pull,” ending the purported investment project, deleting its website and pocketing the investors’ money.
Based on blockchain analytics, shortly afterward they laundered investors’ funds through “chain-hopping,” a form of money laundering in which one type of coin is converted into another and funds are moved across multiple cryptocurrency blockchains, and used decentralized cryptocurrency swap services to obscure the trail of Baller Ape investors’ stolen funds.
If convicted on all counts, Tuan faces up to 40 years in prison.
This and several other similar cases “serve as a crucial reminder that some con artists hide behind trendy buzzwords, but at the end of the day they are simply seeking to separate people from their money,” U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California said.
NFTs are cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other.
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