The free-to-play genre of mobile games is the kind of thing you love to hate. Yeah, most people would agree that games which constantly push you to buy new in-game items are annoying and possibly even unethical – but that certainly doesn’t stop them from playing and ponying up.
One man is now facing jail time for his mobile gaming habit: 38-year-old Adam Winger, the former director of the North Logan City Library in North Logan, Utah. Winger pleaded guilty to embezzling over $89,000 of tax-payer money to fund his microtransactions in the mobile MMO strategy title Game of War.
Winger will spend 30 days in jail, must complete 100 hours of community service, and has paid back $78,000 in restitution. That $78,000 is the only thing that is keeping Winger out of prison — and he had to sell his home and drain his retirement account to afford it.
A bizarre additional requirement for Winger to avoid jail time is that he must write a 10-page report on the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The 2009 book seems like a self-aggrandizing memoir disguised as a self-help book written by a very wealthy CEO. Take that as you will.
Winger’s scheme was pretty simple: since he was in charge of the North Logan library, he was given access to Amazon accounts with state-funded credit cards attached. Using these Amazon accounts, he could buy supplies for the library.
The man's scheme wasn't very elaborate, but he got away with it for a long time before getting caught.
However, Winger also used the accounts to buy gift cards and then used those cards to buy Amazon Coins, which he then used to purchase items in Game of War.
Winger hid this activity through falsifying library invoices and forging documentation.
“I am sure there were a lot of times along the way when you knew you needed to stop,” Judge Kevin Allen said during sentencing on Monday. “Just because you can pay it back doesn’t mean the damage wasn’t done.”
City officials in North Logan figured out what was happening in the summer of last year. They placed Winger on administrative leave for three months, which ended with Winger’s resignation.
At the time, there were no public reports about why Winger was placed on leave or why he resigned. But then, in March this year, the city brought criminal charges against him. That’s when the whole Game of War fiasco came to light.
This isn’t the first time Game of War’s microtransactions have been in the news: in 2016, a person reportedly spent $1 million on in-game upgrades.