Real crackdown for a virtual NFT theft: five people, suspected of having stolen monkey images prized by online collectors from their owners, have been indicted in Paris. Damage is estimated at $2.5 million. These five young people are prosecuted within the framework of an open judicial investigation for fraud in an organized gang, laundering of this offense and association of criminals, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.
They would have fraudulently recovered between the end of 2021 and the beginning of March 2022 the ownership of these NFTs, certificates of authenticity attached to digital goods. The prosecution said it opened a preliminary investigation on August 23 into these suspicions of theft, entrusted to the Central Office for the Fight against Crime Related to Information and Communication Technologies (OCLCTIC).
Christophe Durand, the deputy head of this service, explained to AFP that the OCLCTIC had started “end of 2021 initiative” to observe “the annoyances of the community of owners of the limited series of monkeys Bored Ape Yacht Club” about thefts of their NFTs.
They then “checked” the investigations carried out on the Web by an Internet user, known under the pseudonym of ZachXBT. The modus operandi described was as follows: the defendants proposed to the owners of these works of cryptoart, which were static images, to “animate” via a website. A phishing site was hidden behind it, which led victims to unknowingly hand over ownership of their NFTs.
According to Christophe Durand, “the hackers got the monkey back and laundered the money through a ‘mixer’, a mix of transactions that were lumped together so they couldn’t be traced”. “‘Mules’ accepted transfers to disburse the money in cash, with remuneration”, added the OCLCTIC officer.
According to the Paris prosecutor’s office, five victims have been isolated at this stage for the theft of 7 NFTs. One of them would have had 3 NFTs stolen on her own, for a total damage estimated at 2.5 million dollars. At least five NFTs of monkey images were allegedly stolen, one of which alone was estimated at nearly $1 million.
The OCLCTIC placed seven people in police custody, five young people born between 1998 and 2003, living in Paris, Caen and Tours, and the parents of one of them, according to the prosecution, which specified that the two parents had been released without prosecution at this stage. The five young people were placed under judicial control, although two of them, already identified by the ZachXBT investigation, had been the subject of requisitions for placement in pre-trial detention.
Among the five indicted, two are suspected of having carried out the site and the marketing, the other three the advertising and the money laundering operations, according to Mr. Durand. “Resold NFTs have not yet been found”, said the Paris prosecutor’s office. Justice seized from one of the two main respondents an NFT purchased with the money earned (in Ethereum), “a bank account with 150,000 euros and an apartment in Paris”, according to the floor.
“This is the first time that the cyber section of the Paris prosecutor’s office has seized NFTs in connection with Agrasc”, the agency for the recovery of seized assets, welcomed Vincent Plumas, the spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor’s office. The owners of Bored Ape meet in the “Bored Ape Yacht Club”. Among its displayed members, the PSG footballer Neymar, Paris Hilton or the rapper Eminem.
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How images of monkeys in NFT ended up at the heart of a virtual flight
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