Hacker admits stealing $12m worth of chips from Zynga

Do not pass go, do not collect stolen booty

A UK-based IT expert has admitted hacking into the servers of game developer Zynga and stealing $12m worth of gaming chips, according to news reports.

Ashley Mitchell, 29, of Paignton, Devon, pleaded guilty to five charges on Wednesday in Exeter Crown Court. Judge Philip Wassall told him: “It is inevitable you are going to prison.” Mitchell, a former Torbay Council worker, was remanded into custody.

According to published news reports, Mitchell was able to gain unauthorized access Zynga's system by posing as one of the company's site administrators. He then transferred 400 billion gaming chips into fake Facebook accounts he set up. The price of the stolen booty would have come to $12m if Zynga had issued it, prosecutors said.

Mitchell proceeded to sell about a third of his take for about £53,000. If he had managed to sell the rest at the same discounted rate, his take would have come to about £184,000, a prosecutor told the court.

Mitchell's attorney said the crimes were committed when his client was “wrestling with a gambling addiction” that resulted in him spending £3,000 on online games. He said Mitchell was now drawing a six-figure salary from a Facebook application called Gambino Poker and asked the judge to consider allowing the defendant to repay the £184,000 over two years.

Mitchell was already given a 40-week suspended prison sentence for hacking into computers at Torbay Council. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.

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