Like cryptocurrencies, there are inherent risks involved with non-fungible tokens (NFT), including possible scams. It appears that investors in the Evolved Apes project have found that out the hard way after its creator vanished with 798 Ether, worth around $2.7 million, taken from its funds.
Evolved Apes is a collection of 10,000 NFTs for sale on marketplace OpenSea. The pitch was that, in addition to owning the NFTs, they could be used in an Evolved Apes fighting game in which owners battle each other with winners taking Ethereum rewards.
More than 4,000 of the NFTs have been sold since first going on sale over a week ago, writes Vice. But the project’s creator, the aptly named Evil Ape, has suddenly vanished along with the official Twitter account and website. They also took 798 Ether with them, siphoned from investors’ money. It came from sale of the NFTs and commissions on the secondary market and was supposed to be used for development and marketing of the project.
Things started looking suspicious in September: several project leaders were inexplicably absent and there were some announcements that Vice describes as “unprofessional.” Community member Mike_Cryptobull, who has spent over $10,000 on 20 Evolved Ape NFTs, was asked by backers to look into the situation.
“What has happened is that Evil Ape has washed his hands of the project taking away the wallet with all the ETH from minting that was to be used for everything, from paying the artist, paying out cash giveaways, paying for marketing, paying for rarity tools, developing the game and everything else in between,” he wrote in his report. “This wallet is also the wallet connected to receiving the 4% royalties from resales. Evil Ape is also holding a number of the 1/1 Evolved Ape NFT’S that were intended for giveaways.”
The Evolved Apes community has vowed to carry on with a new project called Fight Back Apes. Evolved Apes holders would be automatically approved for a Fight Back Apes token linked with the art from the old project.
Despite everything that has happened, more than 660 Evolved Ape NFT’s, worth around 16.7 ETH ($59,700), have sold since Evil Ape’s disappearing act, each sale earning them 4% in royalties. Attempts to contact OpenSea so the platform can remedy the situation have failed.
It’s important to note that these aren’t the famous Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs that recently sold for $24.4 million at Sotheby’s—they’re just ripoffs.
PC Gamer notes that while there are questions over unpaid artists and competition winners, police intervention is unlikely due to jurisdictional issues and the fact it’s not entirely clear if a scam has been perpetrated. But some buyers seem more interested in dealing with Evil Ape themselves. “Once we find him he’s getting put on the bin and we’re gonna pull up on him. The police won’t even get the chance to pursue criminal charges once we are done with him […] That n* is done for,” one remaining member of the original Evolved Apes Discord told Andy Chalk.