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Two Defendants Charged In Non-Fungible Token (“NFT”) Fraud And Money Laundering Scheme – Department of Justice

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Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Thomas Fattorusso, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), Ricky J. Patel, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security (“HSI”), and Daniel B. Brubaker, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced that  ETHAN NGUYEN, a/k/a “Frostie,” a/k/a “Jakefiftyeight,” a/k/a “Jobo,” a/k/a “Joboethan,” a/k/a “Meltfrost,” and ANDRE LLACUNA, a/k/a “heyandre,” were charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in connection with a million-dollar scheme to defraud purchasers of NFTs advertised as “Frosties.”  Rather than providing the benefits advertised to Frosties NFT purchasers, NGUYEN and LLACUNA transferred the cryptocurrency proceeds of the scheme to various cryptocurrency wallets under their control.  Prior to their arrests in Los Angeles, California, NGUYEN and LLACUNA were preparing to launch the sale of a second set of NFTs advertised as “Embers,” which was anticipated to generate approximately $1.5 million in cryptocurrency proceeds. 
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “NFTs have been around for several years, but recently mainstream interest has skyrocketed. Where there is money to be made, fraudsters will look for ways to steal it. As we allege, Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Llacuna promised investors the benefits of the Frosties NFTs, but when it sold out, they pulled the rug out from under the victims, almost immediately shutting down the website and transferring the money. Our job as prosecutors and law enforcement is to protect investors from swindlers looking for a payday.”
IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge Thomas Fattorusso said: “NFTs represent a new era for financial investments, but the same rules apply to an investment in an NFT or a real estate development. You can’t solicit funds for a business opportunity, abandon that business and abscond with money investors provided you. Our team here at IRS-CI and our partners at HSI closely track cryptocurrency transactions in an effort to uncover alleged schemes like this one.”
HSI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Ricky J. Patel said: “The trending market and demand for NFT investments has not only drawn the attention of real artists, but scam artists as well.  The arrested thieves allegedly hid behind online identities where they promised investors rewards, giveaways, and exclusive opportunities before implementing their ‘rug pull’ scheme – leaving investors with empty pockets and no legitimate investment. HSI New York’s Dark Web & Cryptocurrency Task Force worked closely with our IRS-CI partners to identify and shut down these fraudsters as they prepared to launch the sale of yet another NFT project that would have likely scammed countless others.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Daniel B. Brubaker said: “The rise and popularity of various cryptocurrencies have changed the landscape of buying and selling investments, leading to ample opportunities for new fraud schemes. Today’s arrests involved Non-Fungible Tokens (“NFTs”), opening the door to alternative investment options and substantial risk. These assets may seem like a good deal or a way to become wealthy, but in many cases, as in this situation, only lead to the loss of your money. Postal Inspectors will pursue fraudsters with our law enforcement partners in any consumer market and advise consumers to pursue emerging investment trends with diligence and skepticism.”
As alleged in the Complaint[1]:
Since in or about January 2022, IRS-CI and HSI have been investigating a NFT fraud scheme based on reports from purchasers of Frosties utility NFTs[2] that they had been defrauded in what is colloquially referred to as a “rug pull.”  As the term suggests, a “rug pull” refers to a scenario where the creator of an NFT and/or gaming project solicits investments and then abruptly abandons a project and fraudulently retains the project investors’ funds.  According to the official Frosties website, Frosties purchasers would be eligible for holder rewards, such as, inter alia, giveaways, early access to a metaverse game, and exclusive mint passes to upcoming Frosties seasons.  In reality, on or about January 9, 2022, NGUYEN and LLACUNA, whose legal identities were disguised to Frosties NFT purchasers, abruptly abandoned the Frosties NFT project within hours after selling out of Frosties NFTs, deactivated the Frosties website, and transferred approximately $1.1 million in cryptocurrency proceeds from the scheme to various cryptocurrency wallets under their control in multiple transactions designed to obfuscate the original source of funds.  A screenshot taken from the Frosties website is shown below:
 
 
Prior to their arrests, NGUYEN and LLACUNA were advertising a second NFT project under the name “Embers,” which, based on similarities to the Frosties NFT project, is believed to be another fraud scheme that was expected to launch on or around March 26, 2022.  A screenshot taken from the Embers website is shown below:
 
 
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ETHAN VINH NGUYEN, 20, and ANDRE MARCUS QUIDDAOEN LLACUNA, 20, are each charged with one count of commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h), which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences described above are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the assigned judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, IRS-CI, and USPIS. 
The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Danielle M. Kudla is in charge of the prosecution.
If you believe that you have been a victim of this crime, please contact HSI Special Agent Paul Nugent at paul.nugent@ice.dhs.gov.
[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described herein should be treated as an allegation as to the defendants charged in the Complaint.
[2] A “utility” NFT offers holders added benefits, such as reward programs, giveaways, and early access to events for NFT holders.
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This Week's NFT Sales Slide, Bored Ape Market Cap Drops 21%, Floor Prices Sink Lower – Markets and Prices Bitcoin News – Bitcoin News

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by Jamie Redman
Non-fungible token (NFT) sales this week dropped 10.88% lower than the week prior. Roughly $118.02 million worth of NFTs were sold this week compared to last week’s $132.43 million. Further, the top two NFT collections with the largest market capitalizations shed significant value during the past seven days. While Bored Ape Yacht Club’s market valuation lost 21.29%, Cryptopunks’ market cap slid by 19.18%.
NFTs had a lackluster week as sales and prices have followed in sync with falling crypto asset prices. Statistics show that a large number of NFT collections have lost considerable market value during the past week. For instance, metrics show that Bored Ape Yacht Club’s (BAYC) floor value on September 13, 2022, was $114,388 and today, the floor value is around $90,026. BAYC’s market valuation on September 13 was $1.14 billion and today it’s down 21.29% to $900.25 million.
Data shows that the second most expensive NFT floor value belonged to Cryptopunks on September 13, and that’s still the case today. However, the cheapest Cryptopunk last week was around $98,941, but today you can get one for $79,960. Cryptopunks’ market cap has nosedived 19.18% lower during the past week. The same can be said for a majority of blue chip NFT collections like PROOF Collective, Mutant Ape Yacht Club (MAYC), Castaways, and Doodles.
Seven-day statistics show that the BAYC NFT collection is the compilation with this week’s top sales, as $8,603,290 in trades were recorded. BAYC sales have increased by 17.33% and the second largest NFT collection in terms of weekly sales is RENGA. The RENGA NFT collection has managed to print $5,822,323 in seven-day sales, up 121.08% since last week. Overall, however, NFT sales across 17 blockchains monitored by cryptoslam.io are down 10.88% lower than last week.
This Week’s NFT Sales Slide, Bored Ape Market Cap Drops 21%, Floor Prices Sink Lower
Ethereum (ETH) captured the top NFT sales and Solana (SOL) recorded the second largest number of digital collectible sales this week. Although, ETH-based NFT sales slipped 1.66% lower than last week with $79.05 million in seven-day sales. SOL-based NFT sales are down this week 42.11% lower than last week with $23.71 million. Both Flow and Immutable X saw an uptick in NFT sales. Flow NFT sales jumped 59.42% higher, and Immutable X NFT sales saw a significant 790.96% increase.
The top five most expensive NFTs sold this week all stemmed from the BAYC collection and include Bored Ape #441, Bored Ape #2897, Bored Ape #5733, Bored Ape #4179, and Bored Ape #1846. Bored Ape #441 sold for 351,000 DAI and Bored Ape #2897 sold for 215.38 ether or $296,404. Bored Ape #5733 was sold three days ago for 120 ether or $176,458, and Bored Ape #4179 sold for 123 ether or $176,307. Lastly, the fifth most expensive, Bored Ape #1846, was sold for 106 ether or $151,939 four days ago.
What do you think about this week’s NFT sales dropping more than 10% lower than last week’s sales? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
Jamie Redman is the News Lead at Bitcoin.com News and a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open-source code, and decentralized applications. Since September 2015, Redman has written more than 6,000 articles for Bitcoin.com News about the disruptive protocols emerging today.

Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a direct offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or a recommendation or endorsement of any products, services, or companies. Bitcoin.com does not provide investment, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Neither the company nor the author is responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, goods or services mentioned in this article.
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Last December, the renowned professional skateboarder Tony Hawk released his “Last Trick” non-fungible token (NFT) collection via the NFT marketplace Autograph. Next week, Hawk will be auctioning the skateboards he used during his last tricks, and each of the NFTs … read more.
Central Bank of Brazil Confirms It Will Run a Pilot Test for Its CBDC This Year
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FASB Excludes NFTs, Some Stablecoins From Crypto Accounting Project – The Wall Street Journal

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Michael Saylor can't stop: MicroStrategy now holds 130,000 Bitcoin – Cointelegraph

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MicroStrategy bought an additional 301 BTC for $6 million at an average price of $19,851, the company’s executive chairman announced on Twitter.
MicroStrategy now owns 0.62% of all the Bitcoin (BTC) that will ever be mined. The company’s executive chairman, Michael Saylor, announced that the company bought another 301 BTC for roughly $6 million at an average price of $19,851 per BTC. 
In sum, the company is one of the planet’s largest holders of the asset, owning 130,000 BTC. Apparently, Saylor likes round numbers, buying 301 BTC to reach the 130,000 milestone. 
MicroStrategy has purchased an additional 301 bitcoins for ~$6.0 million at an average price of ~$19,851 per #bitcoin. As of 9/19/22 @MicroStrategy holds ~130,000 bitcoins acquired for ~$3.98 billion at an average price of ~$30,639 per bitcoin.https://t.co/5kYW98ij4I
Due to plunging price action, the company’s investment is down substantially in U.S. dollar terms. MicroStrategy’s entry price is roughly $30,639 per BTC, and the Securities and Exchange Commission filing states that the firm has bought 130,000 BTC at an aggregate purchase price of approximately $3.98 billion.
If MicroStrategy started stacking sats (buying Bitcoin) at today’s prices, it would have spent $2.48 billion on 130,000 BTC. Saylor is currently at a paper loss of over a billion dollars.
According to the SEC filing, the company made the purchase with “excess cash.” Saylor recently stepped down as CEO of the company to focus on buying more Bitcoin, while Washington, DC has taken aim at the billionaire in a tax evasion lawsuit.
Bitcoin enthusiasts were quick to commend Saylor’s buy. Referred to as the “Chad” or “Gigachad,” Saylor’s conviction and commitment to buying Bitcoin despite the investment being underwater has garnered both a devout following and numerous critics.
Related: Bitcoin better than physical property for regular folks, says Michael Saylor
Other large wallet addresses include that of crypto exchange Bitfinex, which holds 170,000 BTC, and a Binance reserve wallet that holds 125,000 BTC. Binance is the world’s largest crypto exchange and has several wallets holding six figures of Bitcoin. Regarding individuals, Saylor has stated that he holds Bitcoin, and FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao are also “hodlers” — a meme that became popular jargon for holding crypto.

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