A software glitch discovered while using an online gift-card redemption system led to a Pennsylvania man’s wire fraud conviction. Because the circumstances involved the use of the internet, the offense is a federal felony, which can result in severe punishment. A conviction of wire fraud may carry a prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine in addition to paying restitution.

By pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud, admitting to having made mistakes and paying full restitution prior to sentencing, the accused 25-year-old obtained a one-day jail sentence. The judge also mandated community service and a four-month house arrest. The prosecution, however, argued that the man’s actions warranted a much more severe punishment, including years-long incarceration.

A software bug allowed a user to redeem a gift card through a major online merchant without the value of the purchase resulting in a balance reduction. The defect basically enabled the gift card’s balance to remain fully available when used to make a much larger partial payment in combination with another form of payment covering a significantly smaller portion.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the man who pleaded guilty to wire fraud allegedly exploited the software glitch on more than 1,000 separate occasions to purchase more than 3,000 items from the company’s website. While the estimated value of the goods he obtained was reportedly worth $320,000, the amount is not even close to what the defendant actually paid.

A judge may demonstrate leniency when an individual accused of a white-collar crime such as wire fraud pleads guilty. When the accused also demonstrates genuine remorse, there may be a greater chance that the sentencing will not be as severe as the law allows. The majority of defendants facing federal charges typically enter guilty pleas, as noted by Forbes.