Federal prosecutors recently dropped charges against a man who was accused of defrauding a Pennsylvania casino. He and a codefendant had figured out that pressing a particular sequence of buttons on a video poker machine allowed for the player to use a prior winning hand and receive extra winnings. Essentially, the men utilized a software bug in the machines, and casinos in Pennsylvania and Las Vegas called foul.
The allegations date back to 2011, when federal prosecutors charged the pair with wire fraud and computer fraud. The prosecution argued that the way the men pressed the buttons on the poker machines constituted hacking.
But in 2012 the hacking charges were dropped after prosecutors failed to show that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act would be appropriate in charging the defendants.
The government continued to press the wire fraud charges, however, until a federal prosecutor in Las Vegas recently admitted that there wasn't enough evidence to justify the case going forward. The judge hearing the case dismissed the remaining charges.
An attorney for one of the defendants pointed out that the men had a legal right to press the buttons on the machines, regardless of the resulting winning streaks.
The outcome of this case should serve as a reminder that fraud allegations are not always cut and dry, even when federal prosecutors think they have enough evidence for a conviction. To ensure that faulty evidence doesn't lead to a negative outcome in criminal court, accused individuals need to be aware of every available defense option.
Source: wired.com, "Ding Ding Ding! Video Poker 'Hackers' Cleared of Federal Charges," Kevin Poulsen, Nov. 25, 2013