$1 099 000 USD

JANUARY 2022

GLOBAL

FROSTIES

DESCRIPTION OF EVENTS

"Cool, Delectable, and Unique~. Frostie NFTs are made up of over a hundred exciting traits of backgrounds, body, clothing, eyes, mouths, eyewear, hats, toppings, and items. Each Frostie is a unique, non-fungible token (NFT) on the Ethereum blockchain. Frosties will have staking, metaverse, breeding functions, and so much more!"

 

"Holding a Frostie allows you to become eligible for holder rewards such as giveaways, airdrops, early access to the metaverse game, and exclusive mint passes to the upcoming seasons. The Frosties presale will take place on January 7th and the main sale will take place on January 8th. Join the Frosties community on Twitter and Discord!"

 

"Each Frostie NFT will be 0.04 ETH!" "The presale of Frosties will be on January 7th at 07:00 PM UTC and the public sale will take place on January 8th at 07:00 PM UTC." "Once you have minted a Frostie NFT, you will be able to see it on OpenSea." "4% of the secondary sales will be deducted in royalties for the Frosties Team. A portion of those royalties will go towards the development roadmap where we will be conducting marketing campaigns and more!" "[Y]ou will own all intellectual properties to the Frostie after minting it."

 

"[Ethan] Nguyen (a.k.a. “Frostie” and other pseudonyms) and [Andre] Llacuna (“heyandre”) are the alleged creators of Frosties, an Ethereum NFT project that held its mint in January [2022]." "Frosties had become the latest star of the NFT world as 2022 began."

 

"Frosties NFT was a project that started out slow but quickly gained a lot of hype through its community. Many members, past and current, will tell you they fell in love with the community first, and the art second!"

 

"Each Frostie was advertised to cost approximately 0.04 ETH, which at the time of the Frosties NFT sale, was equivalent to approximately $123 to $136. In total, the Frosties Website advertised 8,888 Frosties tokens for sale."

 

"Joshua Christian had a good feeling about Frosties, a digital collection of colorful ice-cream-scoop characters with quirky outfits and facial expressions. The 20-year-old college student from Huddersfield, England, bought three of them, his first NFT purchases. He was one of millions of new buyers to enter the digital art market, a field that’s exploded in [2021]."

 

"[Melissa] Kotter’s Frosties journey began on an upbeat note. She started getting into NFTs [in 2021] and was drawn to the Frosties project which she said looked “really professionally done.” There were things she found curious about the community, like the fact that, unlike with other NFT projects, the Frosties managers did not disclose their identities to reassure prospective buyers. But, Kotter said, she “went into it anyway.”"

 

"So did Christian, who spent about $1,000 on three Frosties which cost about $112 each in ether, including gas fees. “I really like the art style. They looked really cute on the website. Frosties had a feeling that people would buy that, you know.” In the world of NFTs, that means the collection could be worth a lot of money."

 

“I figured that this was going to be my first dive into the NFT market,” [Marcellus King, another Frosties collector] said in a Twitter message. “I was skeptical, since I thought the idea of NFTs was just sort of overhyped and overpriced. So seeing [one] that had a thriving community with a lot of activity, a roadmap, [a] legitimate looking site, [an] OpenSea account and artwork, that was actually pretty damn great.”

 

Frostie collectors were promised premiums with the NFT purchase such as “staking, metaverse [and] breeding functions,” as well as “[becoming] eligible for holder rewards such as giveaways, airdrops, early access to the metaverse game and exclusive mint passes to the upcoming seasons,” according to the project’s website.

 

"Kotter, who was elected as a mod, made it to the whitelist, giving her early access to the first Frosties to be minted, an incentive that helped build interest in the project."

 

"Christian said he bought Frosties for its staking feature, in which he could earn fees by locking up his NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain, which in turn would help process transactions. Buyers were promised other ways to make money from the investment, too, like “breeding” — essentially creating new Frosties from two existing ones."

 

"Pre sale opened with high gas prices and some difficulties minting. The (rugged)mods and project head worked out a minting schedule which broke the whitelist up into 3 groups."

 

"Many members became upset by high gas fees in the early minting. In a surprising move, the anonymous Frosties developer refunded the fees." "The presale date was pushed to the next day, subsequently pushing the public sale to a few hours following." "The following morning the discord was welcomed with a pinned message that all gas has been refunded to pre sale buyers that minted." "That should have been an alarm, but unsophisticated buyers took it as a positive sign."

 

"The fee refund “screams out to me like a Ponzi-scheme-type strategizing,”' said Michael Fasanello, an anti-money laundering specialist who has analyzed other scams. Giving early customers their money back for gas fees led to people publicly praising the project, helping recruit more users." "Let it be known that the creator [convinced] his staff into pouring thousands of dollars each into the project as well. The creator was extremely smart about his rug, he and his staff even refunded up to $20,000 in gas fees after the whitelist failed the first time."

 

"All 3 groups of presale went smoothly. 2pm EST, public minting began. 8,888 Frosties Sold out in less than 45 minutes."

 

"For whatever reason, the founders [then] decided to disappear. This kind of success is not easy to achieve in the NFT space. With thousands of projects constantly vying for attention, only a few truly succeed. The art was original, well designed, with a great concept of utility and the promise of more to come. So, it was a complete shock to the investors when the authors pulled the rug."

 

"After selling through the 8,888 NFTs and banking about $1.1 million worth of ETH in the process, the creators closed down the project’s Discord channel and disappeared with the funds."

 

"[J]ust a few hours after Frosties’ public minting began the evening of Jan. 9, [Joshua] noticed something odd: The NFT’s Discord server was gone. “That’s not right,” he thought."

 

"In Oklahoma, Melissa Kotter, a Frosties “mod,” or moderator, was also puzzled when the Discord server disappeared. “Everybody was freaking out,” the 26-year-old artist told Protocol."

 

"A few hours later, in Singapore, a sales manager who asked to be identified only as Kerry and who, together with a friend, purchased about 160 Frosties worth about 12 ETH, more than $45,000 at that time, woke up to “many messages telling me a rug was pulled.”"

 

"By then, thousands of Frosties realized that they had been scammed, confirmed by a tweet on the Frosties Twitter account before it subsequently disappeared. “I’m sorry,” it read." "Within a couple hours of selling out, the project runner closed all social media connections. Leaving us with a “I’m sorry” tweet."

 

“My initial thought was like, 'F---, this is awful,'” Christian said. “Honestly, I couldn't believe it at first,” Kotter said. “It was a lot of anxiety — and I can't say I got good sleep.”

 

"The Frosties scam led to the theft of at least $1.2 million, moved in a series of rapid transfers of funds from Frosties' OpenSea wallet to other accounts, leaving a community, which numbered roughly 40,000 at its peak, stunned."

 

"Money was transferred to his (rugged) community mods from the mint wallet. This was done for a couple reasons, first as a “sorry” for the mods that’s had put their time, money, and commitment believing in this project, but also as a way to draw heat away from the project owner."

 

"The Frosties rug pull had the “hallmarks of cyber-enabled financial crime when you get to the use of the mixers, the address hopping, the peel chains and all that stuff,” said Fasanello, director of Training and Regulatory Affairs at the Blockchain Intelligence Group. His firm is conducting an investigation into Frosties, pro bono."

 

"Fasanello used blockchain analytics to track movements from the Frosties page on OpenSea. The funds first moved in “peel chains,” a series of small transfers ranging from $3,500 to $25,000, mostly to un-hosted or stealth wallets. One transfer went to a Coinbase account, though it was quickly moved to another wallet."

 

"Then much bigger transfers followed, including three worth about $300,000 each. This time the scammer used Tornado Cash, an Ethereum-based tool that obfuscates the source of funds by using stealth addresses." "A couple days following [the attack] all [the] ETH was moved from the mint wallet via Tornado Cash, removing anyway to track where the ETH went."

 

Tracking the funds is challenging, but not impossible, Fasanello said: “At least some of this money, theoretically, could be obtained and returned to the customers, if all of the pieces aligned properly.”

 

"Frosties start at just 0.001 ETH (about $3) on the OpenSea secondary market now. They originally sold for 0.04 ETH, which was about $112 at the time of minting."

 

"Many members noticed immediately what was going on. Multiple splinter discord groups were made to figure out can be done."

 

"Some of the victims are taking what happened in stride."

 

"Kerry, the sales manager based in Singapore, said he and his friend “had a good laugh” over what happened, though they now look for “red flags” in considering new crypto projects."

 

"Christian said it was “really annoying” to learn he was involved in a rug pull. He was puzzled by why the developer opted for the quick profit of a scam versus the money they could have made running the project legitimately."

 

He’s not giving up on NFTs. “I'm 20 and I want to do as much as I can young, so I can live out my 30s and everything stress-free,” he said. The total NFT market is now worth about $16 billion, which is just 1% of the $2 trillion crypto market. But NFTs, Christian predicted, are “going to blow up in the coming years.”

 

"A lot of [Discord] groups were [started that were] basically just on a witch hunt for the project leader and mods."

 

”I have never felt that amount of anxiety in my life,” a 25-year-old college student, who goes by Antique_Taco online, told Blockworks. “[It was my] first NFT ever, and [I] got scammed.”

 

“I went to eat dinner and when I came back I saw that one Frostie was revealed on OpenSea,” Antique_Taco said in a direct message on Twitter. “I was really confused so I typed a message in the Discord about it and as soon as I hit send the Discord disappeared…My heart sank.”

 

"Per a criminal complaint, Nguyen confessed and apologized to a moderator of Frostie’s community Discord server — sending the mod some ether “for [their] troubles.”"

 

“I know this is shocking, but this project is coming to an end. I never intended to keep the project going, and I don’t have a plan for anything in the future,” the message reads. “I want you to know that I do care. I appreciate you, even if you don’t appreciate me.”

 

"Most of the mods went silent. Andre, whom addressed and released the information about the project head paying him after the pull, spoke up urging that the mods where not a part of the official project and only appointed by the project head through discord."

 

"Andre was present in this discord for about a week before going silent himself and leaving. One other mod spoke with some members then, but only in DM."

 

"Some of the Frosties victims are trying to rebuild the community through a technical maneuver called wrapping — taking the tokens issued in the scam, which still exist on the blockchain, and placing them under an entirely new smart contract outside the original developer’s control. Christian said he paid $140 to wrap his three Frosties into the new contract." "A couple of [Wrapped Frosties members] stepped out to recruit other discords into here, marking this discord as the central for our rugged community."

 

"The next morning, @illiquidcapital started to reach out to the dev[eloper]s that had recently made a contract that “wrapped” Pudgy Penguins due to their own issues."

 

"And within hours had access and started to not only edit the contract for use with the Frosties NFT but made the contract public so other project may follow if they met the same demise. 'Wrapping' allows an owner to move a NFT from a rugged contract to a new contract so that future royalties are used to build the community."

 

"We're going to UNRUG this project. Here are the tentative plans from an announcement in the new discord. Make sure to join!" "Welcome to the UNRUG of FROSTIES. My team is currently going through and building a wrapped contract. Essentially, you will put your NFT in (you can do multiple at one time) and it will spit out the exact same NFT but wrapped in a new contract on a new OpenSea with royalties that won't go to the scammers. All royalties will go to the SNOW DAO that will be in charge of running the DAO and the entire program. We will tweak the roadmap a bit and release it soon after the wrapping contract. A new website will also be constructed. I will NOT own this project. Me and my team are only volunteer[ing] our time for free to unrug this project in a true web3.0 decentralized way. We will have the community own 100% of the assets. The community will elect leaders[ and] mod[erator]s. Everything will be voted on. The funds will be in a multisig owned by the community members."

 

"Original holders of the NFTs banded together via a new Discord on Jan. 9, dedicated to “unrugging the Frosties.”" "The love and support for each other today has been inspiring. Together we're going to figure this out."

 

“I know everyone is trying to figure out what is going on,” one moderator, who goes by “catdadcapital.eth,” posted in the chat. “We are diligently working behind the scenes to get control of the project one way or another.”

 

"We are looking for people with general knowledge and coding backgrounds (solidity/web3 or otherwise) to assist our efforts. If you have experience please chime in under the channel tech-applications in the discord."

 

"With a wrapped contract made up, the plan to bring Frosties back from the rug was officially on its way. The community came together and" "[d]evelop[ed a] contract to take (rugged) Frosties off of the scammers old contract and move them to our own, new contract." The team "[c]reate[d] a Multi-sig wallet (5 sigs) for the new project[, r]aise[d] the funds to deploy the wrapping contract[, and d]eploy[ed] the new smart contract." The "community [then] vote[d] on a new Community Staff and Community Helper representatives."

 

"The “Wrapped Frosties,” as the group is called, set up a new page on OpenSea. The page recently listed a “floor,” or lowest price for the collection, at 0.005 ETH, or about $13.11. Cruise Ingles, a rug pull victim who also decided to join the rebuilding effort, said he would like to see the collection go back to its original .04 ETH, or $116, floor price “to ensure decent royalties” for community members."

 

"Wrapped Frosties look exactly like the original Frosties but run on a different smart contract. This is why the community members decided to call it "Wrapped," alluding to the process of wrapping a token, which is essentially moving one token that belongs to a specific blockchain into another."

 

"Just Ashley, one of the community members spearheading the [Wrapped Frosties] project who prefers to go by her social media handle, said this new line is meant to recover some of the losses incurred by the rug pull. Wrapped Frosties, for instance, has a 0.015 ETH floor price, roughly $37 at ether's current level, compared to Frosties, which has a 0.002 ETH floor price, equivalent to around $2."

 

"A heavy social media presence was made to get our story out there and to help rugged Frosties find their wa[y] home. Members stepped up and we created our official unrugged Frosties Twitter. @FrostiesNFTs. We hosted and stepped in on various NFT AMAs to get our name out there." "In less than a week we were able to save over 1000 of the rugged Frosties."

 

"With our name out and Frosties rolling in, we got our first vote as a Wrapped Frosties community." "To raise awareness for our Frosties and continue along with a roadmap we needed a plan." "Community leaders proposed 3 ideas and Wrapped Frosties holders were allowed to vote with each Wrapped Frostie weighing 1 vote. The winning proposal received 61.37% of the vote. The community decided to launch a new collection of "Cutie Pies"."

 

"Ingles said the group plans to launch a new collection called Cutie Pies to raise funds which they hope to use to sustain and grow the Frosties collection. He said the new Frosties Discord community has about 1,600 members, with 150 active participants."

 

"The Wrapped Frostie community will directly influe[n]ce the design and development of this new collection. Our [r]oadmap is in development for both projects and will include a feature for Wrapped Frosties and Cutie Pies to interact to create a new magical NFT!"

 

"But rebuilding an NFT community “that lost all of its money” is challenging, Ingles acknowledged. A successful NFT community emerges largely because of FOMO, he said. “The fact that a project has ‘already failed’ makes other buyers want to avoid it, no matter what happens after,” he said."

 

"We didn't feel like we could just let this go," Just Ashley told Insider. "There were a lot of people who lost quite a bit of money and we're also trying to help them recover it."

 

Twitter user Ryan Rampersaud said: "Love hearing and being a part of this come back story. Hope the NFT world is watching. Keep bringing these rug pulls to justice and make the NFT space a great place to be."

 

"Fasanello, who has been investigating the rug pull, found out about the potential scam when he came across victim complaints while browsing an NFT subreddit. Fasanello’s team sent an analysis and graph of the stolen funds to Blockworks."

 

"Fasanello began working with one moderator of the project’s new Discord on Jan. 11. Fasanello, who did not disclose the name of the moderator, said the two may file a report with law enforcement in the near future. "

 

"Once Fasanello identified himself in the chatroom, however, he was kicked out — leading him to believe there may be “foxes in the henhouse.”"

 

“For somebody to have that sort of access is a red flag,” Fasanello said, adding that two admins have access to the smart contract that underlies the NFT project.

 

"One moderator, who goes by “Shipper,” confirmed to Blockworks that Fasanello was no longer in the Discord and that two admins did create a copy of the same smart contract."

 

“The project itself, I do have a lot of hope for, as long as the current people in charge of the server, keep their promises, which nobody can be entirely sure of,” Shipper said in an interview with Blockworks.

 

"The US DOJ has been working with a few people and have brought forth charges on “Frostie” and “HeyAndre” the previous rugged frosties founder and his “mod”."

 

"Paras 13 - 16 [of the criminal complaint] discuss how the [defendents] were identified and the money laundering. Basically, law enforcement used a comb[ination] of IP addresses that were identified with Discord user names, Coinbase KYC doc[uments]s, shared email addresses across services on-chain transaction records, and credit card records to id[entify] the [defendant]s."

 

"On or about December 17, 2021, a Coinbase wallet owned by ETHAN NGUYEN sent approximately 0.024 ETH to Fraud Wallet Address-1. This was the first cryptocurrency transaction ever recorded on the blockchain involving Fraud Wallet Address-1. In the weeks that followed, the owner of Fraud Wallet Address-1 uploaded the Frosties Smart Contract to the blockchain and appears to have conducted various transactions without any financial value, but rather designed to test the operability of the Frosties Smart Contract computer code. Based on the fact that the very first cryptocurrency transaction to Fraud Wallet Address-1 was from a Coinbase wallet owned by NGUYEN, along with the many usernames linked to NGUYEN on various accounts that are also linked to the Frosties NFT project as outlined in this Complaint, I believe that NGUYEN owns and/or controls Fraud Wallet Address-1, which uploaded the Frosties Smart Contract that contained the withdrawal code to transfer all proceeds from Frosties Wallet Address-1 to Fraud Wallet Address-1."

 

One defendent "bought a VPN sub[scription] to hide his tracks, but its appearance on his credit card statement and use of the VPN's IP ranges to commit the fraud is part of the evidence against him. That's called irony."

 

"On or about December 31, 2021, a Citibank credit card belonging to ETHAN NGUYEN, a/k/a “Frostie,” a/k/a “Jakefiftyeight,” a/k/a “Jobo,” a/k/a “Joboethan,” a/k/a “Meltfrost,” the defendant, made a $9.99 purchase to Tunnel Bear. Based on my training and experience, I know that Tunnel Bear is a virtual private network (“VPN”) service provider, which enables a user to send and receive data across a shared or public network as if the user’s electronic device was directly connected to a private network. VPNs can be used individuals engaged in unlawful activity to obfuscate their true location (by concealing their true IP address) and avoid law enforcement detection. Based on my review of IP addresses recorded in connection with the Frosties NFT sale, I know that IP address ranges belonging to Tunnel Bear were used on various social media platforms and the Frosties Website to promote the Frosties NFT project."

 

"A couple of days after the sale, the ETH was transferred through some wallets and then transferred through Tornado. The ETH was identified after it was sent from the anon post-Tornado wallets to the [defendants'] Coinbase accounts. The use of Tornado, multiple wallets, and the timing are the basis for the money laundering charge." "[O]ne of the wallets had an ENS name that contained one of the [defendant]'s legal first names."

 

On March 24th, 2022, "the United States Department of Justice announced that it has charged a pair of 20-year-olds, Ethan Nguyen and Andre Llacuna, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering over the Frosties NFT project."

 

“As we allege, Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Llacuna promised investors the benefits of the Frosties NFT’s, but when it sold out, they pulled the rug out from under the victims, almost immediately shutting down the website and transferring the money,” he continued. “Our job as prosecutors and law enforcement is to protect investors from swindlers looking for a payday.”

 

“NFT’s have been around for several years, but recently mainstream interest has skyrocketed,” said U.S. attorney Damian Williams, in a release. “Where there is money to be made, fraudsters will look for ways to steal it.”

 

"Nguyen and Llacuna were arrested in Los Angeles, and according to prosecutors, the alleged scammers were about to launch a second such project called Embers. The Ethereum-based project of 5,555 profile pictures was due to launch on or around March 26, with a potential payday of more than $1.5 million worth of ETH if the mint had sold out."

 

"Not satisfied with their ill-gotten gains, prosecutors allege, Nguyen and Llacuna then spun up another NFT project called Embers that was set to launch in mere days, on March 26. Investigators believe that this was another rug pull in the making and was expected to pull in another $1.5 million, the statement says."

 

"The Embers Twitter account [was] still live [as of March 24th, 2022], with its most recent tweet posted 20 hours ago advertising a lottery for entrance to its token presale. That tweet has over 4,000 retweets and more than 5,000 likes."

 

"Each individual Ember is carefully curated from over 150 traits, along with some incredibly rare 1/1s that have traits that can't be found from any other Ember," reads the project's webpage. "Our vision is to create an amazing project that will shed light, joy, love, and creativity! Burn on, Embers!"

 

"Each individual was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each offense."

 

Twitter user exlawyer.eth analyzed the rational for the charges: "Why do I believe these specific people were charged? The utility promises. If the [defendant]s had created a project with no utility, no road map, no promises and then delivered the NFT and just disappeared - deleted socials, Discord, etc. - I don't think they would be in this situation. By promising utility and then running with the money and deleting everything, they committed fraud. Another strong factor is the Discord message. Prosecutors don't like to lose and that Discord message which they can connect with the IRL identity of one of the [defendant]s is very strong evidence."

 

Marcellus King, a first-time collector who lost about $3,000 in ether from the rug pull, told Blockworks that he is “glad that justice was served to these scammers.”

 

“I’m also glad that others have been put on notice in this Wild West space that the authorities are watching,” King said.

 

“Even though [they] got scammed with the first phase of the project, they want to keep the project alive,” Mike Fasanello, the director of training and regulatory affairs at Blockchain Intelligence Group, told Blockworks in an interview. “A big passion is still there in this community, which is fantastic.”

 

"Wrapped Frosties were launched to unrug our project. Our community keeps growing! Our next milestone is to launch @WeAreCutiePies We will use a portion of proceeds to unrug worthy projects. Join Us!"

The "Frosties" NFT project launched with the sale of 8,888 cartoon ice cream characters, and a lot of promises of future projects to build up the brand including metaverse integrations, staking, breeding functions, and exclusive giveaways. Instead of delivering, the creators decided to take the money and disappear. Unfortunately for the creators, they were total idiots when it comes to their transactional privacy, originally funding the project with money directly from a CoinBase KYCed wallet, purchasing both the NFT art and VPNs to obscure their identity using credit cards registered in their name, and even using their home IP address to directly interact with the community. They also decided to openly admit their fraudulent intent in a written memo sent to one of the moderators, handing prosecutors virtually irrefutable evidence of their intent.

 

The community rebranded the project into "Wrapped Frosties" and relaunched a wrapped token, along with another "Cutie Pies" NFT set, with proceeds all going towards a fund for affected users. The new token allowed holders of the existing Frosties NFTs to migrate to the new token and retain what they held. The creators Ethan and Andre are now facing the prospect of 20 years in prison for their fraud if convicted.

HOW COULD THIS HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?

The easiest solution to prevent this situation would be some additional oversight into the project. Had it been started by known founders, they would have been less likely to believe that they could pull off a fraud without consequences. Had the smart contract behind the NFT stored received funds in a proper multi-signature wallet and undergone a review, it would have been dramatically safer for users and the back door would not have gone undetected. Each additional separate member on the multi-signature wallet improves the safety of a system.

 

Check Our Framework For Safe Secure Exchange Platforms

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NFT art scam: How the Frosties rug pull went down - Protocol (Jan 10)
https://opensea.io/collection/frosties-nft (Jan 10)
https://mobile.twitter.com/frostiesnfts (Jan 10)
https://opensea.io/collection/wrapped-frosties (Jan 10)
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https://mobile.twitter.com/FrostiesNFTs/status/1524180216133783553 (Jan 11)
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https://mobile.twitter.com/FrostiesNFTs/status/1485476711802327040 (Jan 11)
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https://mobile.twitter.com/MktsInsider/status/1487780208409202691 (Jan 11)
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https://mobile.twitter.com/Blockworks_/status/1507458622187520004 (Jan 11)
Two 20-Year-Olds Charged in Alleged $1.1M NFT Scam, Defrauding Investors - Blockworks (Jan 11)
https://www.business2community.com/nft-news/frosties-nft-rug-pull-team-arrested-by-doj-02461717 (Jan 11)
https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/press-release/file/1486846/download (Jan 11)
Department of Justice charges the scammers behind the January "Frosties" NFT rug pull with fraud and money laundering shortly before they launch their second project (Jan 11)
https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/ethereum/historical-data/ (Dec 20)

Sources And Further Reading

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