IT businessman Ashley Mitchell, of Paignton in Devon, admitted at Exeter Crown Court hacking a Zynga server that powered their online poker game, Zynga Poker.
Once he had access to the system, he stole virtual poker chips by transferring them to fake Facebook accounts he had set up – netting himself 400 billion virtual chips in all, which within the game were worth $12million (£7.4million).
Mitchell then sold the chips on the black market, although there they fetched considerably less, netting him £53,000.
Judge Philip Wassall described the crime as ‘sophisticated’ and said it was ‘inevitable’ that he would be jailed – warning Mitchell that he faced a substantial amount of time behind bars. Mitchell was remanded in custody while the judge adjourned the case for reports.
Speaking in Mitchell’s defence, solicitor Ben Derby said that at the time he committed the crime, Mitchell – who himself runs a Facebook poker application, Gambino Poker, which sells ‘Cheap Facebook Poker Chips’ – had been wrestling with a gambling addiction and was spending £3,000 a day on online games.
Social gaming experts Zynga are behind some of the most popular Facebook games, including FarmVille, Cityville and Mafia Wars – the success of which have seen their company valued at as much as $5billion.