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Northern California man embezzles $4.8 million from employer and spends $1 million on 'Game of War'

After stealing $4.8 million from his employers, Kevin Lee Co went a spending spree and bought everything from season tickets for the Sacramento Kings to plastic surgery.

But his oddest expenditure was on the addictive smartphone game “Game of War.”

According to federal prosecutors, Co spent a lion’s share of the embezzled funds – approximately $1 million – on the game.

On Thursday, 45-year-old Rocklin, Calif., resident pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud after he was accused of embezzling funds from his employer, Holt of California.

Co served as controller and was responsible for the construction equipment company’s accounting department, according to plea agreement filed U.S. District Court. He was supposed to use the company’s credit card to pay for operating expenses.

Instead, he used the card to purchase luxury cars, a golf club membership, furniture for his home, surgery, season basketball tickets, season seats for the San Francisco 49ers and gaming purchases.

According to Cracked, “Game of War” hooks players by allowing them to play free for a few minutes and allowing them to progress. But eventually, players must start paying to play to beat others playing for free. One player, who dropped $9,000 on the game, wrote about his obsession.

People spend an average of $87 on "free-to-play" mobile games, according to Slice Intelligence, a company that measures online sales. "Game of War" players, however, spent on average $550, the most of any mobile game, the company said.

Co falsified records and “took steps to hide” his charges, according to the federal court document. He was fired in April 2015. Federal prosecutors said Co’s scheme began around May 2008.

According to the plea agreement, Co must now repay all of the stolen funds.

He faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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