Virtual goods are big business nowadays, in online worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft, so much so there is discussion over taxing profits made from such goods. Real as the virtual reality is, someone in the online game EVE Online stole virtual money from the virtual bank he ran and exchanged it for real cash.
Think of it as virtual embezzlement. Not only that, once word of the theft spread, a run was made on the bank, EBank, making things worse.
The CEO of EBank, was a 27-year-old Australian tech worker with the handle Ricdic. Only his first name has been revealed (Richard); he embezzled about 200 billion interstellar kredits (ISK), the game's virtual currency.
He exchanged the ISK for $5,100 with players who prefer to buy funds rather than earn it playing the game. Not unusual for players to do so; it's the reason there is a market for virtual goods in these types of games.
Ned Coker, of Icelandic company CCP which runs EVE Online, told Reuters:
"Basically this character was one of the people who had been running EBank for a while. He took a bunch of (virtual) money out of the bank, and traded it away for real money."
Meanwhile, Ricdic told Reuters:
"I'm not proud of it at all, that's why I didn't brag about it. But you know, if I had to do it again, I probably would've chosen the same path based on the same situation."
Ricdic apparently used the resulting cash to put down a deposit on a house and to pay medical bills. The medical bills I could probably forgive; the deposit? Not so much.
Eve Online has about 300,000 players inhabiting an online universe. The game centers around interstellar trade, mining asteroids and player-controlled corporations. Interestingly, in 2006 the EVE Interstellar Bank had a similar theft, with the proprietor of the EIB, known as "Cally," stole around 790 billion ISK.