Update November 17th, 2016: Anthony Clark has been convicted.
Anthony Clark has been convicted of wire fraud for his part in a scheme that created millions of dollars’ worth of in-game FIFA Coins, which he then sold for millions.
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FIFA Coins are awarded upon completing a game. Together with three accomplices, Clark was accused of writing a program that would log thousands of matches within a matter of seconds. Using black market websites, Clark and his co-conspirators then sold the resulting coins for up to $18m (see original story, below).
Clark’s accomplices have pleaded guilty and are awaiting their sentences, according to Eurogamer. Clark’s sentence is due to be handed down on February 27th next year.
Original story November 15th, 2016: A Texan man called Anthony Clark went on trial this morning accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Specifically, Clark and his three co-defendants are accused of hacking EA’s servers to mine FIFA Coins, selling them on to ‘black market’ dealers in China and Europe, with the FBI alleging that Clark’s group had made between $15-$18 million from the scam.
You might be aware of FIFA Coins if you’ve played EA’s football sim, or perhaps you’ve stumbled across popular player pack opening videos on YouTube. FIFA Coins are used to purchase these packs, and you can buy them with real money, either directly from EA or via shady third-party sellers. You can also earn them in-game, albeit at a slower rate.
As Kotaku report, an unsealed FBI indictment claims that Clark and co-defendants built a tool that tricks EA’s servers into generating these ‘earned’ Coins at speed. The scheme allegedly began in 2013 some time, and had continued right up until September 17, 2015, stopping only when the FBI began investigating and seizing property.
During the seize, millions of dollars and property were acquisitioned . Computers, Xbox 360s, a Ford Explorer and an Audi are among the requisitioned goods. Anthony Clarke’s Bank of America account has also been cleared by the FBI to the value of nearly $3 million.
Clarke, along with co-defendants Ricky Miller, Nicholas Castellucci, and Eaton Zveare, are allegedly part of a hacker group called RANE Developments. Ricky Miller entered a guilty plea in October.
RANE Developments have connections with Xbox Underground, another hacker group that was charged in 2014 for stealing software from Microsoft and Valve. One of Xbox Underground’s members, Austin Alcala, is cooperating with the FBI on the RANE Developments case, after working with the defendants to reverse-engineer a copy of FIFA 14 - a process which led to the development of the FIFA Coin mining tool.
According to Alcala, Clarke is “calling the shots” at RANE Developments. The FBI have full access to Alcala’s online accounts and interactions - evidence that led the the indictment.
The trial begins today and will hear testimony from EA’s security team, the four co-defendants and members of their family.