A British man has been remanded in custody after pleading guilty to the theft of 400 billion virtual poker chips from the Facebook game company Zynga. The download free poker game does not allow players to gamble for money, but there is a lucrative, if legally dubious, resale market for the play chips.
Zynga themselves sell bundles of chips to players who want to up their bankroll quickly. ‘Hacker’ Ashley Mitchell took the radical step of breaking into the Zynga system and registering 400 billion chips to his account.
The chips had a market value of £7.4 million and Mr. Mitchell had begun selling them on eBay for £430 per billion. Before being caught he had already sold around a third of his stock. All told he stood to make £172,000 from the digital heist. A sting arranged by Zynga revealed Mitchell as the culprit.
He was taken before Exeter Crown Court, where he was charged with breaching the Computer Misuse Act and Proceeds from Crime Act. He pleaded guilty to all five charges brought against him and has been remanded in custody while awaiting sentencing.
Judge Philip Wassall commented that Mr. Mitchell was likely to face a lengthy spell in prison for his crimes. The court’s leniency will no doubt be affected by the fact that Mitchell is currently serving a suspended sentence for hacking into local council computers.
Reports from the BBC claim that he was “obsessed” with online gaming and had a particular affinity for the Zynga facebook poker game. As odd as it may seen to veterans of online poker rooms, the free title is incredibly popular, generating millions of dollars every year. And, just like real casinos, it seems that the thought of getting free money illegally is too much for some people to resist.