A US federal judge has ordered an alleged hacker to pay the equivalent of $750,000 in cryptocurrency for bail. The man was charged with hacking video game company Electronic Arts (EA), obtaining in-game currency used to buy and sell in-game items, and selling access to online games though black-market websites.
Judge Orders Bail Payment in Crypto
Federal Judge Jacqueline Corley has ordered a “hacker charged with illegally accessing computer network of [a] Bay Area company” to pay bail in cryptocurrency, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last week.
Martin Marsich, a 25-year-old Serbian and Italian national whose last known residence was in Udine, Italy, was arrested at the San Francisco International Airport on August 8 while boarding a flight to Serbia. At the federal court in San Francisco where he made his first appearance the next day, the DOJ described:
Magistrate Judge Corley ordered Marsich released to a half-way house on the condition that he post the equivalent of $750,000 in cryptocurrency for bail.
Judge Corley was frequently in the news last November for ruling in favor of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against Coinbase. She ordered the crypto exchange to turn over information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted crypto transactions during the years 2013 to 2015.
The Case and FBI Complaint
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent filed an affidavit in connection with the criminal complaint against Marsich on March 25. It states that “a video-game company headquartered in the Bay Area discovered that an individual had illegally accessed its internal computer network and granted access to parts of the company’s systems,” the Justice Department conveyed. “The intruder, later identified as Marsich, gained access to 25,000 accounts that allow customers to purchase items for use in video games.”
Furthermore, the FBI complaint outlines that “Marsich allegedly used some of the information he obtained from the computer system to obtain in-game currency, used to buy and sell in-game items.” He was also accused of selling “access to the on-line game on black-market websites.”
According to the Daily Post, the Bay Area company is Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), a well-known American video game company headquartered in Redwood City, California. “After making the discovery of the intrusion, the company allegedly closed the stolen accounts and suffered a loss of approximately $324,000,” the DOJ further revealed, adding:
The complaint charges Marsich with intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain…and accessing a protected computer to defraud and obtain anything of value.
While clarifying that “a complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed,” the agency noted that “If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate for each violation.”
Why Did the Judge Order Payment in Crypto?
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe was quoted by the Daily Post saying that he “had never heard of anyone bailing out of jail with cryptocurrency in any courtroom.” While acknowledging that cryptocurrency is now acceptable in a federal court, he believes that “a cryptocurrency bail would fly in San Mateo County Superior Court.”
Although the DOJ’s announcement does not specify the reason for bail payment in crypto, U.S. Assistant District Attorney Abraham Simmons explained that “judges can order many kinds of bail, including real estate owned by another person,” the publication conveyed and quoted him describing:
The judge could order just about anything…It really is quite broad…What the objective is is to get the defendant to comply with an order to appear later.
Simmons also said he was “certain” that if the value of the cryptocurrency were to fluctuate dramatically, either party could file a motion to change the bail amount. “I would imagine that either side would alert the court of an extreme change in the value of the asset, but it doesn’t mean that the court would care one way or the other.”