French authorities launch an investigation to protect victims of rug pulls

The public prosecutor of Paris reacted to numerous complaints from victims who had invested in the Animoon NFT project

Pokemon on a pile of money
Some of the Animoon victims have lost over $100,000

Yesterday, AVI Collective (Collectif d’Aide aux Victimes d’Influenceurs), a French organization created to provide legal assistance to victims of false advertising performed by social media influencers, announced that the Paris public prosecutor's office has opened two investigations after reviewing nearly one hundred joint complaints submitted to the prosecutor by the Parisian law firm Ziegler & Associés.

According to the press release published on the French platform Relations-Publiques, the complaints mentioned in the announcement refer to two projects involving influencers.

The first is the Telegram channel Blatagang, run by social media influencer Marc Blata and his wife Nadé. The couple allegedly encouraged investors to participate in high-risk Forex trading using a questionable copy-trading strategy based on mimicking the trading actions of professional traders. The press release states that the influencers offered their audience "unrealistic and misleading prospects of gain."

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The prosecutor has also opened an investigation into Animoon, "an NFT project inspired by Pokémon cards and promoted by many popular influencers" that promised spectacular rewards to investors.

The press release describes the Animoon case as a "rug pull," emphasizing that "the announced benefits were never distributed, the funds for the project disappeared, and their founders remain unreachable to this day." The damage Animoon caused to its investors is estimated at over $6 million, while some of the victims lost up to $110,000.

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Notably, the famous on-chain detective ZachXBT conducted his own investigation into Animoon over a year ago. According to the detective, the losses amounted to about $6.3.

"The PFP NFT project was a collection of 9,999 NFTs [each worth] 0.2 ETH, advertised as a P2E game with a utility such as large giveaways, breeding, irl trips, and more. After almost 5 months, nothing has been delivered," ZachXBT tweeted on June 2, 2022, mentioning influencer Jake Paul as an active promoter of the project.

ZachXBT mentioned two of Animoon's founders. In addition to Blatagang host Blata, Animoon had at least one other founder, appearing under the Twitter name Maxim Adam.

The detective checked the ownership of NFT, which Adam used for his profile picture on Twitter, and found that it belongs to another person, the NFT influencer with the Twitter name OGDeathBot. Both ZachXBT and OGDeathBot assumed that Adam used the BAYC NFT to impersonate its real owner. According to the investigation conducted by rapper Booba, the real names of the project’s founders are Mounir Mokaddem and Singainy Marc Oceane.

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ZachXBT also pointed out that the project claimed to have "a partnership with TopDeck and a signed NDA with Pokemon." According to the post from the project’s support chat published by ZachXBT, the team behind the project claimed that Pokemon "took a percentage of the royalties." The team described Animoon as "a fan-based project grounded in the passion that has its own creative designs under all permissions." Later Animoon also announced a collaboration with Bandai Namco (Digimon).

The blockchain detective said that the project team significantly reduced its social media activity shortly after the launch and transferred the money from NFT sales to Kucoin and Binance crypto exchange accounts.

According to ZachXBT, there were many attractive rewards promised by the Animoon team, but NFT investors received nothing.

"The first fifteen cards are legendary cards, they will automatically generate $2,500 every month, for life to their owners," one of the most lucrative offers from Animoon said.

However, this offer was soon changed. "Legendaries will receive a percentage of the incomes of the game. That could be a lot more than $2,500 monthly," the team announced on April 20, 2022.

Interestingly, NFT holders did not get even more modest rewards. "In March, 100 holders were supposed to receive Jordan shoes, another 100 holders were to receive off-white shirts, and another 50 holders were to receive supreme shirts," ZachXBT tweeted.

In May 2022, the project's general chat was removed from Discord, which was explained by its team as "a part of the transition to a Private Club" which was supposedly possible to access only under the condition of holding Animoon NFTs. However, the project’s Twitter account was removed too and the website was not functional.

"I am very pleased to share that today it was publicly revealed another one of my investigations on the $6.3 million NFT rug pull Animoon is currently under criminal investigation by French authorities," ZachXBT tweeted yesterday. The criminal investigation launched by the prosecutor is a necessary step that can serve as a cautionary tale to other malicious actors who have recently exploited the new Ordinals standard for Bitcoin-powered memecoins, many of which also turned out to be rug pulls.