Top US Online Casinos
1. Jumba Bet Casino - $25 No-Deposit Bonus Plus a $1,200 Welcome Welcome package.
2. Bovada - Best bitcoin casino and massive welcome bonus worth 100% up to $3,000 Free.
3. Lucky Creek - 66 Free Spins Plus 166% up to $266 Free.

Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing Zynga Virtual Poker Chips

2 February 2011 by admin

zynga-poker1An Englishman has pleaded guilty to stealing $12 million worth of virtual chips for a Zynga Poker game. Yesterday, at Exeter Crown Court in Devon, England, 29-year-old Ashley Mitchell pleaded guilty to hacking into Zynga’s server, stealing 400 billion virtual chips for the poker game and then selling them on the black market.

Gareth Evans, prosecutor on the case, said that the defendant sold approximately one-third of the stolen virtual chips for approximately £430 per billion. The amount of chips he sold, if bought directly from Zynga – the only legal source of purchase – would be worth a total of £12 million. On the black market, though, he is believed to have made approximately £184,000.

Evans admitted, though, that it’s difficult to determine the value of virtual currency because they’re not really worth anything.

Whoa, wait a second. You may want to read that last part again: the virtual chips that Mitchell “stole” and sold have no value. They are not legal currency and only have value in the poker game, Zynga Poker.

Zynga makes a variety of games that are used in social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace. One of the most popular is Zynga Poker. In that game, players start out with a set amount of chips. They do not pay anything to get those chips. They then play against other poker players for free, but wagering and winning the virtual chips. If they run out of chips, they have to either wait until the next day, when new chips will be given to them by Zynga, ask friends to give them chips, perform tasks such as completing online surveys, or purchase chips.

If the player purchases the virtual chips through Zynga, it is a legal transaction, but the chips have no value outside of the website. They can be used to play more hands of poker or upgrade their avatar, but they can never be withdrawn for real money. That is because the chips are not legal tender. For some reason, people are still willing to pay real money for this virtual currency, though.

Mitchell hacked into Zynga’s servers, stole virtual chips that have no value (or do they?) and then sold them on the black market for a reduced price. No physical property was stolen from Zynga and the chips are worthless except in the game, so was anyone really robbed?

The prosecution’s contention is that Zynga was robbed because he sold chips to people who would have bough chips from Zynga if there were none on the black market. That is fair, because he deprived them of sales (possibly), but that seems more like a reason for a lawsuit than criminal charges. Now, hacking into their servers is a criminal offense, but theft of virtual chips? To be honest, I think the most shocking thing about the story is that people actually pay for those things!

This isn’t Mitchell’s first foray into cyber crime. In 2008, he was convicted of hacking into the website of a former employer and changing his personal information. He received a suspended sentence, which the current charges violate. Mitchell pleaded guilty to four counts of converting criminal property and a single count of violating the Computer Misuse Act (basically an anti-hacking law).

Mitchell has not yet had his sentencing hearing, but given his previous offence, he is likely to receive substantial jail time. In jail, he’ll learn about a different black market of virtual currency that is not exchanged anywhere else: packs of cigarettes.

Comments are closed.