Hacking group Team-Xecuter has long been a thorn in the side of major gaming companies.
The group offered hardware and software solutions that allowed people to install and play games – including pirated copies – on various consoles such as the popular Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo had been trying to shut down the group for years but without much result. However, in 2020 the matter escalated when the US Government launched a criminal prosecution of three Team-Xecuter members, accusing them of facilitating copyright infringement.
Bowser Pleaded Guilty
Thus far only one of the three, a 52-year-old Canadian man named Gary Bowser, has appeared at a U.S. federal court. Bowser was arrested in the Dominican Republic, where he lived, and was later deported to the United States where he pleaded guilty.
According to the prosecution, Bowser was the “salesperson” of Team-Xecuter, where he dealt with resellers of the products. He was also known as “GaryOPA”, the operator of the website “MaxConsole”, which regularly reviewed Team-Xecuter hardware and other hacking tools.
As part of the guilty plea, Bowser accepted the possibility of a five-year prison sentence for conspiring to circumvent technological measures and trafficking in circumvention devices.
Last week, the U.S. Government stressed that a five-year prison term was indeed justified. Among other things, this would serve as a warning to others who are tempted to continue the work of Team-Xecuter.
Bowser’s attorneys disagreed and asked the court to limit the sentence to 19 months, of which 16 have already been served. They stressed that Bowser was not the mastermind behind the operation but was used by the people who earned the big bucks.
40 month Prison
Today, District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik chose the middle ground and sentenced Bowser to 40 months in prison. This comes on top of the $4.5 million in restitution he previously agreed to pay Nintendo.
“These are serious criminal offenses with real victims and harm to the community,” Judge Lasnik said.
In a press release, the U.S. Department of Justice describes Bowser as a prominent leader of the criminal enterprise. U.S. Attorney Nick Brown notes that during its lifespan the group caused an estimated $65 million in losses to gaming companies.
Today’s sentencing is seen as a key victory in the fight against gaming piracy. However, it doesn’t close the books on the criminal prosecution just yet, as the other two defendants have yet to be brought to justice.
This includes Max Louarn, a 49-year-old French national. He was reportedly placed in custody when the investigation was launched, but we haven’t heard any updates since. The third defendant, a Chinese man named Yuanning Chen, 36, is presumably still at large.