$2 600 000 USD
BALLER APE CLUB
DESCRIPTION OF EVENTS
"The Baller Ape Club is a collection of uniquely generated, digital collectables living on the Solana Blockchain, each Balling Ape is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you." "We have worked hard to bring over 150 traits with a total of 9 categories."
Multiple "Twitter accounts were used to promote the project." "The biggest to promote the project was the artist/rapper Lil Xan."
"Struggling to find the next big, hyped and strong NFT project? BallerApeClub[!] 5,000 unique with all hand drawn attributes. The community is growing so fast, don[']t miss this one!"
"Stop missing out on the NFT game! The Baller Ape Club are making an absolutely insane collection [and] about to take off. Love the[ir] story [and] community[. G]ood vibes all [a]round[.] Go show some support and stay balling[.]"
"Earn amazing rewards within our Club. Your Golden Ticket to an exclusive VIP Lounge where all fellow Primates gather to flex their Rolex, NFT’s and sip on a banana cocktail." "Get access to our hidden Discord Channels, VIP Lounges, Giveaways and much more!"
"5% royalties will be applied to all resell's of the Baller Ape Club, this will be used to fund community events, charities and used to ensure growth of the Baller Club. For all our rare rewards, giveaways and 1/1 Baller Ape Club NFTs please join the discord!"
"They had 92% active users on Twitter and 30k+ discord members! They had a very solid website." "It looked like a really legit[imate] project and was shilled by some really influential people." "Advertisement space, influencers, everyone had shilled [Baller Ape Club]."
"The artist and our team have worked long and hard to develop and grasp the unique features and attributes of our Baller Ape Club, bringing to you the best VIP Lounge for all our Members! We will be donating to a number of charity organizations, starting with 50 SOL to a charity of the Club’s choosing, we will achieve this through community voting power on our Discord."
"Massive thank you to our baller community[. Y]ou guys have blown us away with the support[!] 15,000 members in our discord in under a week[.]" "There will be a limit of 1 Baller Ape per transaction to help prevent gas war fees and make for a smooth, golden entry into the Club. This means you may return to the mint section as many times as you want. Mint Price or ‘Golden Ticket’ will be 2 sol." "The mint fee at this current time is 2 SOL, however this may change depending on the market."
"How can I join the club? Easy, create a phantom wallet. Users will need solana tokens [in order] for [you] to mint. Solana is cheaper and faster, so entry to the Club is guaranteed golden! (Will leave the rest for you…)"
"The Baller Ape Club will be launching on solanart after minting has sold out, we will also work on building our own marketplace for our fellow ape supporters."
"[T]he team has developed 9 categories including over 150 unique traits for each Ape." "[R]arity is incredibly important to us. So much so that we have designed a trait hierarchy system that lists the traits from ‘Common’ all the way through to ‘Baller’ and each rank has a corresponding % chance of being minted. All the Apes attributes and trait rarity % will be viewable on our website." "Our rarity app[lication] will be available via our website after minting is complete, thus will allow all holder to get their exact nft rarity statistics!"
"Can I mint via mobile? Yes you sure can, we would never discriminate against our fellow baller mobile users, we suggest sollet for both iPhone and android users." "[F]ull intellectual properties are given to the buyer."
"5,000 unique Baller Apes dropping 1 October 9:30PM 21:30 UTC. A baller like club, fighting for a cause on the solana chain."
"Hello Baller Apes[. W]e have seen an influx of bot attacks lately, fake links[,] and manufactured FUD[,] and have decided to mute the chat in order to prevent you guys from being targeted. The launch will still go on but request your diligence in assisting us combatting these bots and fake links."
"We will be dropping the presale link to those with presale access at 25 minutes and those without will see the public mint link in 35 minutes." "Do not worry everyone[. I]t is our hope that chat will be reopened soon, the show must go on[.]"
"Hello Baller Apes, the time you have been waiting for has arrived."
"We have taken multiple steps in order to ensure that this drop is as smooth as possible, we have even setup 3 different servers in order to prevent the website from crashing!"
"We would also like to iterate the rules for minting your very own Baller Apes: (1) The price is 2 SOLANA per Ape. (2) There is a max[imum] of 2 APES per transaction. (3) There is NO LIMITS on the amount of transactions you can do."
"Now, onto what you have been waiting for[. H]ere are the links to mint your very own Baller Apes[. A]ny of them should work, good luck!"
"Please connect your wallet to buy Baller Ape NFTs" "Connect Wallet" "Allow site to connect?" "Connect" "Number of Baller Ape NFTs" "1" "Mint" "Approve transaction" "Transfer SOL" "To" "4BGKK....WZGud" "Lamports" "2000000000" "Approve" "WalletDisconnectedError" "Please connect your wallet to buy Baller Ape NFTs" "Connect" "Your transaction failed." "Sorry, your NFT purchase was unsuccessful please try again by clicking the button below." "Try again ->"
"Hello Apes, if you get an error please try again. Do not worry[. O]ur contract will only charge you if Solana successfully mints your Baller Ape."
"#ballerapeclub launched and sold out pretty fast." "Hello Baller, we are nearly sold out!!! We are so grateful for the support[. I]f anyone is having failed transactions revert back to main mint page and retry[.] Good luck everyone and we will open chat at 10pm UCT[.]"
"I[']m pretty sure they had paid actors to say things along the lines of “I got my ape” “Should I mint another one?”" (Chat was fully disabled on Discord. It's possible such messages could have been posted on Twitter. Video also shows Discord reaction spam which may have been faked.)
"Hi, I minted it, but has been said "failed" on site and transaction in fact okay. So 4SOL transferred. I checked the wallet the SOL transferred to. It is now 13874 SOL. Is it okay? Cause if each NFT is 2SOL, then it is too much for 5000."
"The Rugpull Scam by @ballerapeclub was GENIUS. Every time you click mint, the screen showed an error message. Naturally, you try again and hope your order goes through. However this time.. each error message you receive took 2 SOL out of your wallet."
"[W]hen you were trying to mint you were just losing 2 solana on every transaction without taking any [NFT]. It was a very well-planned scam..."
"They said they would limit transactions to 2 per mint. When the site launched the drop-down had up to 20. I tried to buy 5 and thought it didn't work due to my greediness. I kept firing[.]" "I was rugged for 22 [solana]."
"The website was coded in a way that returned an error saying the payment did not go through, when it in-fact did. People kept trying to get the transaction to go through before we noticed it was draining our accounts completely. After this the people behind the project deleted their Twitter account and their huge Discord server with 30,000+ members."
"Now their TW, Website + Discord is gone… ran away with a million $ of peoples money. DYOR about the team and project before minting anything and fomoing into projects…"
"The only downside with these fabulous projects is most of them deleted their discords and twitters for some reason. :("
"The domain was hosted on Namecheap (Namecheap Inc.). Through massive Twitter noise and filling out their abuse form we were able to make them shut down the website. They have since let us know that a court order will ensure their assistance in an investigation."
"In total the scammers got away with $2.2 million from thousands of purchasers." "The DOJ notes that the case is its biggest involving NFTs to date." "Tuan and his team—”his co-conspirators”—obtained approximately $2.6 million from investors after ending the project and deleting its website after the first day of public sales of the NFTs." "Traun allegedly collected $2.6 million from Baller Ape NFT buyers, only to shortly thereafter delete the organization’s website and launder the funds. According to the Justice Department, he converted the ill-gotten gains into different cryptocurrencies and moved them across multiple blockchains, in a practice known as “chain-hopping.”"
"Le and his co-conspirators collected around $2.6 million from buyers and laundered funds by converting them into different cryptocurrencies and moving them across multiple blockchains in a process known as “chain-hopping”. They also used decentralised cryptocurrency swap services to hide the trail of the stolen funds."
"My cousins and I got scammed this week by Iconic and BallerApeClub. I barely have any faith anymore in NFT projects, since I just started in this community. I hope there will be a donation project for everyone who got scammed. Let's do this as a community."
"Another day, another rug pull. Not sure why I decided to mint an undoxxed project after saying I never would again (perhaps its greed?). I am only down 6 SOL - many others lost everything in their Phantom Wallets including NFTs." (There was no other evidence found to support any additional losses beyond 2 solana per transaction approval.)
"Yeah I lost 4 SOL which was basically my whole investment fund." "Lost 10 [solana] today. Very discouraging as it was my first sol[ana] mint and I was still learning. Learnt a hard lesson today." "Got smashed by the bastards.. 24 Sol[ana] down the drain." "I just lost 18 sol[ana]...[ T]hat[']s all my initial capital and earnings up until now...[ I ]need all the help I can get[. I'm s]uper devastated[.]"
"I got rugged 8 [solana] from #BallerApeClub few days back, with many thousands more. That mint was meant for my 1YO daughter."
"I don’t normally speak about myself. My wife is due in Nov[ember] and I was almost liquid enough to quit 9-5. I have to now tell her Apes stole our money (I spoke with the dev[eloper] often so I went heavy). I don’t know what to do."
"[T]his is such a bad look for Solana. We will continue to do what we can to bring a reputable and positive face to our community." "The @solana community needs to actively talk and think about ways of preventing this in the future."
Several other NFT projects offered free mints to those affected by the rug pull including the Eyeballz NFT project, LuxAI, SpaceBums, Solsphere, Crypto Dragons, and NonFungibleBees.
"We want to show that Solana is a positive place for NFTs and we are here to overcome this together. If any of you were a victim of the Baller Ape scam yesterday, reply with your wallet and transaction here and we will send you a free Eyeballz NFT. Up to 250 wallets will be chosen."
"I succes[s]fully started my #NFT experience in Sept. 2021 from @gamblingapes and then was looking for some ape project on #Solana and got scammed in #BallerApeClub for 3 SOL." "Fortunately I found @weareLUX_space suggesting recover solution for the scam victims providing 1 of their LuxAi #NFT."
"If anyone who was rug pulled sees this, DM us and we will send a @PandaFraternity #SolanaNFTs" "Space Bums will do the same. They are giving people who were rugged a free NFT."
"If you or anyone you know got rugged by @BallerApeClub[, direct message u]s and send us your trash! [Y]ou will get a SolGem on [m]int date." "To everyone that DMed us about @ballerapeclub[, d]on[']t worry if you haven[']t received a response. [As l]ong as you sent your [transaction] via link we will verify and compile a list."
"We are so sorry to hear about @BallerApeClub. It's absolutely horrible what happened to their community. Feels going out. If you were affected comment below and we'll pick a few to get some of our NFTs"
"@Crypto_Dragons were so kind in giving me this gift after [I] lost 4 sol[ana] to #ballerapeclub thank you so much @Crypto_Dragons for your contributions to me and the rest of the NFT community."
"Shoutout to @NonFungibleBees for stepping up and helping some of the community members that got scammed today by @BallerApeClub."
"[F]irst sol[ana] mint ever. [I ]clicked the button 2x times and lost 4 sol[ana]. [I] ended up being gifted solsteins and lux and made up for it 5x over lol."
"Lost my last 2 sol[ana] in this project. How can you tell if a project is real or not? Everything seemed legit[imate] about it. You guys are doing a good deed[. M]uch love[.]"
"[I ]made this [T]witter for crypto & [NFT]s only. [B]aller [A]pe [C]lub was my first minting project. [I ]lost all [8 of my solana]. [I ]feel so stupid. Thanks for your nice gesture tho[ugh]!"
"Thank you so much. I was discouraged after this happened to me but you have given me new faith in the [NFT] market." "God bless you for this huge support and kind help."
However, some fraudsters also tried to take advantage of the free giveaways:
"After compiling all the [transaction] [h]ashes we have received following our effort to help rug victims of @BallerApeclub. Sad to see so many cases of fraud, fake [transaction]/screenshots. :( We are hard at work to make sure all the right users get the Airdrops."
"I believe this system is created in a way that all this bad souls think they are sa[f]e [t]o do there bad stuff[ s]o we can track them down[.] [K]arma wins always."
"The Department of Justice [on the afternoon of June 30th, 2022] announced criminal charges against the creator of the Baller Ape Club NFT collection for orchestrating a so-called “rug pull.”" "The Baller Ape case, along with the three others announced today, are the product of a national enforcement action led by the DOJ in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI."
"Defendant LE AHN TUAN was a citizen of Vietnam. Defendant TUAN founded and registered the Baller Ape Website. During the registration process, defendant TUAN used another individual's identity to conceal his control over the Baller Ape Website." "[Namecheap] was a U.S.-based entity and website domain name registrar that provided domain name registration and web hosting services. Defendant TUAN registered the Baller Ape Website through [Namecheap], and also purchased services through [Namecheap] for the Baller Ape Website. Defendant TUAN accessed the [Namecheap] website through a unique IP address associated with defendant TUAN."
"Le Anh Tuan, 26, a Vietnamese national, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering in the Central District of California in connection with a scheme involving the “Baller Ape” NFT. As alleged in the indictment, Tuan was involved in the Baller Ape Club, an NFT investment project that purportedly sold NFTs in the form of various cartoon figures, often including the figure of an ape. According to the indictment, 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 stealing the investors’ money. Based on blockchain analytics, shortly after the rug pull, Tuan and his co-conspirators laundered investors’ funds through “chain-hopping,” a form of money laundering in which one type of coin is converted to another type and funds are moved across multiple cryptocurrency blockchains, and used decentralized cryptocurrency swap services to obscure the trail of Baller Ape investors’ stolen funds."
"Le Anh Tuan was accused of conspiring to steal $2.6 million from investors in the largest NFT scheme ever charged, the department said in a Thursday statement. Tuan was allegedly part of the Baller Ape Club, which purported to sell NFTs in the form of various cartoon figures. Shortly after the first NFTs were publicly sold, Tuan and other unnamed conspirators engaged in a so-called “rug pull,” shutting down the project and disappearing with investors’ money."
"Le Anh Traun, a Vietnamese national, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering." "HSI is investigating the case. Fraud Section Trial Attorneys Kevin Lowell and Tian Huang are prosecuting the case."
"If convicted, Traun could face up to 40 years in prison."
“These 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,” said U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California, in a statement. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to educate and protect potential investors about both traditional and trendy investments.”
"The same group had pulled off one rug pull already, stealing around $150,000, and later went on to do a third rug pull in January 2022."
Baller Ape Club was an NFT project that promised to launch on October 1st, 2021. They claimed 5,000 unique assets along with significant perks would be included. Through a clever twist, they tricked users into submitting their payments multiple times by claiming that each payment had failed to go through, and gave users multiple servers to try separately. In the end, all the payments worked, none ever displayed as successful, and no NFTs were actually minted. Instead, they simply disappeared with everyone's money, and deleted their social media and website afterward.
While Le Ahn Tuan, the creater of the Baller Ape Club, at least thought to use someone else's identity in their registration of the domain name, they either assumed no actions would be taken by law enforcement or failed to realize that using their own static IP address would make it dead simple for law enforcement to track them down. While the case is still working it's way through the courts, it seems probable that Le Ahn Tuan will face a lengthy sentence. What is less certain is whether any of the collected funds can be obtained and returned.
HOW COULD THIS HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?
The usage of an NFT marketplace as opposed to purchasing directly from the seller can prevent this issue. If a direct peer to peer transaction is desired, then setting up a neutral third party escrow can ensure that both parties get what they were promised.
Another potential solution is to have NFTs sold by known individuals. While this does not prevent fraud, it reduces it and makes justice or recovery easier to obtain.
DOJ Files Charges Against Baller Ape Club ‘Rug Pull’ - Decrypt (Aug 23)
‘Baller Ape Club’ NFT Promoter Charged in Alleged Rug-Pull Scam - Bloomberg (Jan 13)
Baller Ape Club | SolSea (Jan 13)
DoJ files charges vs Baller Ape Club creator and 5 others following NFT rug pull - CoinGeek (Jan 13)
Justice Department Announces Enforcement Action Charging Six Individuals with Cryptocurrency Fraud Offenses in Cases Involving Over $100 Million in Intended Losses | OPA | Department of Justice (Jan 13)
https://mobile.twitter.com/zachxbt/status/1506292001939070992 (Jan 13)
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BallerApeClub Scam - Report to law enforcement - Pastebin.com (Jan 13)
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Baller Ape Club (Jan 13)
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Baller Ape Club | NFT Project List (Jan 13)
The US Justice Department Files Charges Against Culprit of Baller Ape Club NFT Rug Pull - NFTgators (Jan 13)
https://mobile.twitter.com/alperckk/status/1445831333473755138 (Jan 13)
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MY First NFT Rug Pull Scam on the Solana Network | [Baller Ape Club] Stole $1,200 from ME - YouTube (Jan 17)
United States v. Le Ahn Tuan | CRIMINAL-VNS | Department of Justice (Jan 20)
Entries related to the people behind Baller Ape Club (Jan 20)