Hacker admits stealing $12million worth of poker chips from US gaming company
A COMPUTER hacker from Paignton has admitted stealing $12million worth of poker chips from an American gaming company.
Ashley Mitchell, 29, of Little Park Road, Paignton, admitted accessing the system belonging to the Zynga Corporation and stealing 400 billion chips.
He then sold some of the virtual chips on the black market for £53,000.
The IT businessman appeared at Exeter Crown Court yesterday and admitted five counts relating to the hacking together with 41 other offences which he asked to be taken into consideration.
Judge Philip Wassall said Mitchell faced a substantial jail term for the 'sophisticated' offences.
The former Torbay Council worker was remanded in custody after the judge adjourned the case for reports.
Prosecutor Gareth Evans outlined the case.
He said: "The defendant sold around one third of the 400 billion poker chips and looking at the auction history where one can purchase such items he was selling them for around £430 per billion.
"By my reckoning the total value if sold on the black market of the 400 billion was in the region of £184,000."
He said the chips would be sold to people who would then go on to sell them themselves.
He said the difficulty of valuing the chips came from the fact they only existed in the online world.
But if Zynga had sold them legitimately the value would have been $12million.
Mr Evans said Zynga was not deprived of goods in the same way as a normal fraud because it could always issue more.
But he said there was a knock-on effect for the company if it lost legitimate online gamers.
Judge Wassell asked if the case was any different from stealing notes from the Royal Mint.
Mr Evans said in theory it was not because the mint could produce more but the thief would have something tangible he could use elsewhere.
The judge was told the offences put Mitchell in breach of a suspended sentence imposed in 2008.
Mitchell had been convicted on that occasion of hacking into the Torbay Council website and changing his personal details.
He benefited to the tune of £3,498 and was given a 40-week suspended sentence by the court.
Defence solicitor Ben Derby said the crimes had been committed at a time when Mitchell was 'wrestling with a gambling addition' and had spent £3,000 on online games.
Mitchell faced five charges.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of converting criminal property between June 30, 2009 and September 7, 2009.
The other charge was securing unauthorised access to a computer with intent to commit and offence between June 1, 2009 and September 8, 2009.
The offence is contrary to the Computer Misuse Act.
Judge Wassell said Mitchell had used 'considerable professional expertise' in the venture.
Mitchell was remanded until a date to be fixed.