Team Xecuter member sentenced to 40 months in prison

51-year-old Canadian citizen Gary “GaryOPA” Bowser is a former member of Team Xecuter, which offered people hardware and software solutions that allowed people to install and play unofficial and pirated copies of games on various consoles (including the popular Nintendo Switch).

In the fall of 2021, we already talked about the fact that Bowser was pleaded guilty. As a reminder, at Team Xecuter he worked on the SX OS line for modding Switch devices, as well as developing other tools that allowed users to play pirated ROMs.

Team Xecuter member
SX Core prototype soldered to Nintendo Switch board

Bowser pleaded guilty to two of the eleven counts of trafficking devices to bypass security and conspiracy for doing it. Together, the two charges carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In return for a guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining nine charges against the Canadian.

At the time, the modder admitted that between June 2013 and until his arrest last year, he “knowingly and wilfully participated in cybercriminal activities to hack into leading game consoles, which developed, manufactured and sold various devices to bypass security that allowed customers to [modders] play pirated versions of copyrighted video games.”

In addition, Team Xecuter sought to “disguise their illegal activities behind an alleged desire to support homegrown enthusiasts who were eager to develop their own games.” The group supported the right to repair movement, but their products still allowed users to play pirated games.

Bowser was sentenced earlier this month. In pushing for jail time, federal prosecutors made it clear that they believed such a sentence would “send a message to others that prolonged work to undermine the video game industry could have serious consequences.” Law enforcement officers also expressed the hope that media coverage of the Bowser case would be a deterrent for many. They stated:

“Any verdict handed down in this case will be widely discussed in the gaming community as the industry has followed this process closely.”

Nintendo representatives also seemed to be leaning towards the idea that “sending a message” was a good idea. For example, ArsTechnica cited a statement from the company that Nintendo “appreciates the hard work and efforts of federal prosecutors and law enforcement to stop illegal activity on a global scale that is causing serious damage to Nintendo and the entire video game industry.”

The modder had previously agreed to pay Nintendo $4,500,000 to offset some of the losses from Team Xecuter’s operations (which, according to the official version, range from $65 million to $150 million).

Bowser himself estimates that Team Xecuter has generated “tens of millions of dollars in revenue” from sales of its devices and software since 2013. The most profitable was precisely SX OS, which allowed using the Nintendo Switch with custom firmware and playing pirated games. However, Bowser personally made only $320,000 from direct payments from Team Xecuter and a share of ad sales from various sites he controlled.

But a guilty plea and a deal with the investigation still did not help Bowser to completely avoid imprisonment: the court sent him to jail for 40 months (3 years and 4 months).

Two other Team Xecuter members who were indicted back in 2020 (along with Bowser) and who Bowser’s lawyers say played a larger role in Team Xecuter’s operations have yet to face trial. So, Max Louarn is currently in France and is fighting against extradition to the United States, and Yuanning Chen, who lives in China, has not yet been arrested and is at large.

Let me remind you that we also wrote that Owner of the pirate site was accused of hacking MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, as well as extortion.

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Daniel Zimmermann

Daniel Zimmermann has been writing on security and malware subjects for many years and has been working in the security industry for over 10 years. Daniel was educated at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany and currently lives in New York.

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