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Hacker Faces Jail Time For Zynga Currency Heist

by Jeff Cork on Feb 02, 2011 at 08:16 AM

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A British man faces prison time after pleading guilty to stealing and redistributing virtual currency from social-gaming giant Zynga. Ashley Mitchell hacked into the company's accounts and took approximately 400 billion chips for Zynga Poker, which he then resold to other players. Zynga told the court that those chips were worth about $12 million.

Mitchell made about £53,000 (~$85,700) from reselling the virtual chips before he was arrested. As Develop reports, the case has gained attention for the way the ruling examined virtual currency. Prosecutors argued in court that even though Zynga's property was intangible and could be replicated instantly, Mitchell's move to offload the currency to other players created a trickle down effect.

“The court effectively found that, even though virtual currency isn't real and is infinite in supply, it still can deserve legal protection in the same way as real world currency,” Jas Purewal, lawyer and author of Gamer/Law, told Develop.

The judge said that Mitchell would be facing a "substantial" prison sentence, which was probably due to the scope of the crime as well as a previous 2008 hacking conviction.