An IT expert was facing jail today after he admitted hacking into a multi-million dollar online company and stealing 400 billion chips – worth over $12 MILLION.
Fraudster Ashley Mitchell, 29, posed as an administrator and hacked into American poker company, the Zynga Corporation and siphoned off huge volumes of gaming chips.
He then transfered the electronic chips in fake Facebook accounts he set up before selling them online for vastly reduced prices.
Exeter Crown Court heard Mitchell only netted £50,000 from the scam despite the total value of the stolen chips being worth over $12million.
Mitchell, who runs the succesful Facebook application Gambino Poker, was caught out after the company realised vast number of chips were going missing and police tracked his movements online.
He admitted the thefts at Exeter Crown Court today and was told to expect a jail term.
Remanding him in custody, judge Phillip Wassall told him: ”It is inevitable you are going to prison. The question is how long for.
”The considerable amounts involved and the expertise it took for this crime to happen as well as the fact that you did it while already subject to a suspended sentence for the same offence lead me to this conclusion.
”I believe that if you were on bail you would do it again, so you will be remanded to custody.”
IT expert Mitchell, of Paignton, Devon, became ‘obsessed’ with online poker and started to play it around the clock.
But became so addicted that he started racking up huge debts by buying online chips
Mitchell, who was previously given a suspended prison sentence for hacking into a council’s system and paying himself benefits, discovered how to access Zynga’s main frame and, by posing as site administrator, could access their vast sums of chips.
He started transferring the chips to fake Facebook accounts, which he would then sell for vastly reduced prices through a website called ‘seekout’.
Mitchell later set up a Facebook application called Gambino Poker, from which he took home a six figure salary.
He admitted one charge of causing a computer to perform a function to secure unauthorised access to a programme or data held in a computer with intent to commit an offence between June and August 2009.
Mitchell also faces four counts of converting criminal property, namely online poker chips, under the the proceeds of crime crime act – from which he made just over £10,000 between June and September 2009.
He asked for 41 other similar counts to be taken into consideration – which netted him a further £43,310.
Thomas Evans, prosecuting, told the court that had he continued to sell all the chips, the scam would have netted him around £184,000.
Ben Darby, mitigating, said: ”These offences were committed at a time when the defendant was battling with a gambling addiction.
”He spent £3,000 of his own money on gambling at this time.”
Mr Darby also asked the judge to consider allowing Mitchell to pay back £184,000 over two years as he was now drawing a ”comfortable six figure salary” from Gambino Poker, which he set up in April 2010.
Mitchell was given a 40 week suspended prison sentence for hacking into computers at Torbay Council – where he was working at the time – and awarding himself £3,498 in housing benefits which he was not entitled to.
He was remanded in custody for the gambling chip offences and is due to be sentenced next month.