Players Only NFT project, founded by NBA players, rug pulls for $1.4 million

A 3D rendering of a football player running with a football, wearing a red uniform showing the number 13. He has a bald head and his tongue is sticking out.Player #4820 (attribution)
Crypto-sleuth zachxbt reported on June 8 that Players Only, and NFT project created by a group of NBA players including Michael Carter-Williams and Jerami Grant, appears to be a rug pull. The players used their star power to drum up interest in the project and its somewhat unsettling NFTs of various bobblehead-esque sports players. The project promised close involvement from the athletes who founded it, with a roadmap advertising autographed merchandise, real life and metaverse meetups with the players, and other giveaways.

Although the project team promised that "every single one of our holders will win something", the collectors were in for a lot of disappointment: players never showed up for events, and Zoom meetups were never scheduled despite repeated requests, and merchandise was never sent. One person who was promised a signed jersey instead received a t-shirt, apparently devoid of any signature.

In mid-May, two project creators announced they would be "stepping back on the project as [they] cannot seem to please the community". The announcement broadly blamed the project's failures on "lack of interest" in the project. They said they would no longer be providing physical items, and would focus on "athlete utility", though in the time since then the project has remained similarly stagnant.

Collectors minted Players Only NFTs in early December for 0.08 ETH each (~$144). One NFT from the project has been sold on the secondary market in the last month, for $0.001 ETH (less than $2).

Animoon rug pulls for $6.3 million

A Bulbasaur character from Pokemon, recolored to be silver, with orange bows on its earsAnimoon #6891 (attribution)
Animoon is yet another Pokémon rip-off NFT project, with artwork that was ripped directly from Pokémon artwork and recolored. They claim to have a "signed NDA" with Pokémon (whatever that means), though it seems extremely unlikely that there's any real agreement granting them rights to use Pokémon IP.

Not only did their roadmap include play-to-earn game (of course), collaborations with a Swiss shoe and apparel store that would send them actual gear, and real-life trips, but they promised that 15 "legendary" cards would "automatically generate" their owners $2,500 each month, for life. The project was promoted by Jake Paul, an influencer whose crypto promotions don't have a great track record to say the least.

The project team began to grow more distant after launch, posting less frequently. Promised apparel shipments never arrived. The team changed the legendary rewards from $2,500 a month to "a percentage of incomes from the game", which they said "could be a lot more than $2500 monthly" despite no game actually existing. The project team eventually disappeared, took down the Twitter account and website, and disabled the general chat in their Discord project.

Phishing sites appearing to be the "Otherside" Bored Ape land project steal NFTs valued at $6 million

In what should surprise nobody, some of the historically phishing-prone fans of the pricey Bored Apes project fell for scams that pretended to be the Bored Apes' new land project, called "Otherside". In collectors' hurry to mint the metaverse land NFTs, some fell for phishing sites pretending to be the real deal.

Blockchain sleuth zachxbt found one such address that had netted around $1 million in NFTs just today, and tracing its transactions led to two other scammer wallets containing $5.1 million of other stolen NFTs.

Rogue Society team resurfaces after being called out for rug pulling $5.5 million

A blue robot with an open mouth and shoulder-length blonde hair with a pink bow, on a pink backgroundRogue Society Bot #5639 (attribution)
The Rogue Society NFT project launched in September, with an ambitious roadmap that included a theme song, comic book series, 3D figurines, an augmented reality app, and an animated series. The project sold out its 15,777 NFTs, which minted at 0.09 ETH each ($355), for a total profit of around $5.5 million. The team stuck around for a while, but by December had gone completely silent. No tasks on the roadmap had been completed. The founder has withdrawn $3.4 million of the funds.

Following a thread by zachxbt outlining the team's rug pull, the project founder made the first post in the project Discord since December, announcing a theme song competition with no acknowledgement of the team's absence and lack of progress.

This event once again shows how it is people like zachxbt who are left to try to hold project creators accountable in the absence of reasonable regulation or enforcement.

Rich Bulls Club team resurfaces after being called out for rug pulling $3.7 million

An illustration of a brown bull, with a pile of poo on its head, on a toilet-paper-esque background. The text "BANNED!" is stamped above it."Banned" Rich Bull NFT (attribution)
Crypto sleuth zachxbt researched the Rich Bulls Club, an NFT project that launched in December with NFTs priced at 0.3 ETH (~$1,350) a pop. The project included a clause where "selling under our minimum selling price agreement is forbidden"—anyone who sold a Rich Bulls NFT for less than 3 ETH ($13,500) would find the NFT image modified to a bull with a poo emoji on its head, with the text "BANNED!" stamped across it in red. The project roadmap promised networking and business opportunities enabled by its community members, exclusive events, opportunities to win supercars or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a "real-life Squid Game event" where one person would win $1 million. Needless to say, none of this transpired, and the project quietly deleted its website and Instagram accounts as the founder cashed out over $3 million.

Two hours after zachxbt published his research, the team made their first post in three months, with multiple excuses for the issues zachxbt highlighted.

Legal action begins against developer who solicited investments to build an OpenSea competitor, then used it to fund his NFT trading

Attorney Kevin Homiak tweeted that his firm would be representing several individuals who contributed money to a developer, Tyler Gaye, who promised to be working on an NFT platform called 0peNFT. After pulling in donations totaling 227 ETH (then around $400,000), the project was plagued with delays. Despite promises that the team was hard at work, people observing the public Github noticed it showed almost no commits to the project code.

Meanwhile, Gaye used the project Twitter account to promote his own NFT collection. He also took the donated funds and used them to buy NFTs. When pressed on this in the project's Telegram chat, he wrote, "Im buying NFTs because its my ETH and thats what I wanted to do." After crypto scam investigator zachxbt wrote about Gaye's scams, Gaye threatened to "put him in the ground if we ever meet in person".

Gaye has spent almost 400 ETH on NFTs since beginning to collect donations for his project—equivalent to over $1 million. He has also sold NFTs for a total of around 315 ETH (roughly breaking even with the amount he spent on NFTs, if looking at the ETH prices at time of trade), and amassed a substantial number of NFTs he still holds.

Phishing scheme promising to animate one's apes nets attacker a collector's three pricey Bored Apes

A Bored Ape with leopard print fur, wearing a black bowler hat and American flag shirt with a deep V-neck, with half-closed red eyes, on an orange backgroundBAYC #71 (attribution)
An NFT collector fell for a scam website promising to "turn your BAYC animated". After connecting their wallet, the attacker transferred their three pricey Bored Ape NFTs to their own wallet, then quickly flipped them for resale for a combined total of around 264 ETH ($764,000). Zachxbt, a crypto fraud sleuth who first noticed the scam, estimated the NFTs' actual value at closer to $900,000.

It appeared from the victim's retweets that they had fallen for a scam shared by a verified Twitter account that claimed to be one of the Bored Apes founders. However, a closer look at the Twitter handle showed it was a hacked account with the username "volt_france", which previously had belonged to the French branch of the Volt Europa political movement.

One contracted developer writes malicious code for 32 different NFT projects

Rendering of a spherical planet with dark green trees interspersed with futuristic skyscrapersThestarslab #6333 (attribution)
A developer offering his services on the freelancer marketplace Fiverr was hired by 32 different NFT projects, for which he wrote and deployed the smart contracts. The first project to be compromised via the malicious code was "TheStarsLab" project, when the developer renounced ownership on the mint contract, making it impossible for the project team to access the funds. The developer is the only one who has the ability to move the money out of the project contract, though as of a month after the attack on the project, the 197 ETH stuck in the contract (~$580,000 at the time of the attack; ~$648,000 as of April 10).

About 2/3 of the other affected projects had yet to launch or had no social media presence. Crypto sleuth zachxbt tried to contact the other 1/3, and some of the projects were able to migrate contracts before any malicious actions. zachxbt wrote, "Funny enough when I reached out to all the different projects the ones that responded said they either didn’t read over the smart contract beforehand or weren’t the most technically inclined teams." On April 7, OpenSea contacted zachxbt to say they had frozen trading for all contracts created by the developer.

Another pseudonymous defi project exec revealed to have a checkered past

Composable Finance is a company that makes infrastructure tools for defi. Until recently, their head of product has been known only as 0xbrainjar, and has operated pseudonymously. However, on February 18, the crypto detective zachxbt revealed his discovery that 0xbrainjar was actually Omar Zaki. Zaki was charged with fraud by the SEC in 2019 for misleading investors while operating an unregistered investment adviser and hedge fund. He ultimately settled the case for a $25,000 fine, and a three-year ban from working in the investment industry. Although I personally think it's reasonable not to describe anything crypto-related as an "investment", I'm curious how the SEC might feel about him working on defi projects.

On February 20, 0xbrainjar confirmed that he was indeed Zaki. He wrote, "I did this so that my efforts to build up a suite of products would not be shadowed by a mistake that I made in my past.... 0xbrainjar was a place for me to not be defined by this serious misstep (which has been settled and was amplified by the media)". He also wrote on Twitter that "I do not want a mistake in my youth to cloud all of the team's efforts", though the SEC charge was filed less than three years ago, when Zaki was 21.

Following the Wonderland protocol disaster earlier this week, it is revealed that the pseudonymous chief developer has a long history of financial crimes and shady businesses

Sifu, the pseudonymous chief developer of the Wonderland protocol, was revealed to be Michael Patryn, previously known as Omar Dahani. Patryn was a co-founder of the Canadian exchange, QuadrigaCX, which stole $169 million in customer funds. In the mid-2000s, Patryn admitted to several crimes including credit fraud, theft, bank fraud, and burglary.

Wonderland founder Daniele Sestagalli had also been kept in the dark about the identity of his collaborator until finding out about a month ago. He opted to keep this information to himself, and claims it was because he believes in second chances. After the information became public, Sestagalli began a vote on whether Patryn should be replaced.

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