updated 3/14/2011 2:14:10 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:14:10

It’s all fun and Facebook games until the maker of the game loses $12 million to a British hacker.

Ashley Mitchell admitted he hacked into the servers owned by Zynga -- the maker of wildly popular social network games including Zynga Poker, FarmVille and Mafia Wars -- and stole 400 billion poker chips, worth $12 million.

Mitchell illegally transferred the online poker chips to fake Facebook accounts he created, and then sold the chips to other online gamblers at a discounted price, according to the security firm Sophos.

In all, Mitchell sold about one-third of the 400 billion chips on the online black market and made about $81,000.

He pleaded guilty to five charges under the Computer Misuse Act and faces "a lengthy prison sentence for the theft," Judge Philip Wassall told the BBC.

Cybercrime is an ongoing issue for Mitchell: at the time he was perpetrating the poker chip plot – from June to Sept. of 2009 -- Mitchell was serving a 40-week suspended prison sentence for hacking into his city council’s online benefits system.

Although Facebook's  popular apps and games exist in a virtual world, the threats posed by these apps – including leaked data and identity theft – are very real.

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