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Zynga poker hacker jailed for two years

UK "gambling addict" stole 400 billion chips worth £7 million from social gaming firm

An online Texas Hold 'Em Poker player has been jailed for two years after stealing 400 billion virtual gambling chips from Zynga – potentially costing the social gaming firm around $12 million (£7m).

Ashley Mitchell, of Devon, stole the identity of two employees after breaking into the social gaming company's mainframe and used the access to procure funds which he sold on to other gamblers through Facebook.

The Guardian reports that Mitchell made £53,612 in a two month period in order to fund his own addiction to online gambling, managing to sell around a third of the chips before he was detected.

"It was clear there had been a systematic approach adopted in probing and accessing Zynga. Checks on [Mitchell's] bank account showed at this time he bought items including a Rolex watch and was also spending money on online gambling," according the prosecution.

"He made determined and repeated efforts to attack Zynga's systems. He succeeded and transferred 400 billion chips and sold them to realise a substantial profit."

However, Mitchell's defence suggested that Mitchell had enjoyed little benefit from the theft and that he was a victim of his addiction, saying, "gambling had complete control of his life."

Speaking to Mitchell the Judge said: "The dishonesty in this case was substantial and protracted. Online security is a priority for everyone these days. You deprived Zynga of income. It is quite clear you used a considerable degree of expertise and persistence to hack into the system.

"The sentence has to reflect the impact on public confidence in security systems and online business when someone breaches security in this way."

Mitchell, who has since set up his own Facebook poker site, admitted computer misuse and four counts of money laundering, whilst he was also sentenced to an additional 30 weeks for breaching an earlier suspended sentence imposed in 2008 after hacking into the computer system of former employers Torbay council.

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