A hacker who sold pirated video games gets more than 3 years in prison


A video game pirate and prominent member of a group that sold pirated video games, costing more than $65 million to Nintendo and other companies, was sentenced in federal court in Washington state on Thursday to 40 months in prison, prosecutors said.

The hacker, Gary Bowser, 52, pleaded guilty to two felonies in October for his role in Team Xecuter, an operation that sold illegal devices that allowed people to play pirated video games on consoles like the Nintendo Switch, the Sony PlayStation Classic and the Microsoft. Xbox, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington said in a declaration Thursday.

As part of a plea deal, Mr. Bowser, a Canadian who was living in the Dominican Republic at the time of his arrest in September 2020, agreed to pay $4.5 million in restitution to Nintendo of America.

“The damages go beyond these companies, harming video game developers and small creative studios whose products and hard work are essentially being stolen,” Nick Brown, the U.S. attorney, said in the statement.

Under his agreement with prosecutors, Mr. Bowser pleaded guilty to conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and trafficking in circumvention devices, and trafficking in circumvention devices, prosecutors said. Several other charges against him were dropped.

Prosecutors called Mr. Bowser a “prominent leader” of Team Xecuter, a video game piracy group whose products they said included online libraries of pirated video games. The group, which had more than a dozen members around the world, also sold “workaround devices” that allowed users to hack into consoles like the Nintendo Switch, a popular handheld device on which users can download games. games like Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. .

Mr. Bowser ran the group’s websites and answered customer questions, prosecutors said.

“Mr. Bowser bears responsibility for stealing millions of dollars in profits,” Donald M. Voiret, a special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, said in the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. the Department of Homeland Security were implicated in the case.

In one declaration On Thursday, Nintendo thanked federal authorities for their efforts to “curb illegal activities on a global scale that are causing serious harm to Nintendo and the video game industry.”

Michael Filipovic, one of Mr. Bowser’s attorneys, did not immediately return phone calls or emails Thursday seeking comment.

Mr. Bowser was deported from the Dominican Republic after his arrest in September 2020, prosecutors said. He was charged along with two other people: Max Louarn, 49, from France; and Yuanning Chen, 36, from China. They have not yet been extradited to the United States to face charges, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said Thursday.

In a sentencing memorandum filed last week for Mr Bowser, his lawyers wrote that he was “bearing the brunt” of government prosecution. He had never met his co-defendants in person and was “reaping the slightest profit” from the business, according to his lawyers.

“His generosity is something that others have taken advantage of,” his lawyers wrote. “In this case, Louarn used Mr. Bowser to be the public face of the business.”

Video game pirates have become a growing threat gaming companies in recent years as attackers steal code and slash corporate profits. In June, hackers claimed to have stolen the source code for the popular football game FIFA, created by video game company Electronic Arts.

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Carolyn M. Daniel