On February 4, we learned that the government was seeking a 5-year sentence for Canadian hacker Gary Bowser, in addition to restitution, and three years supervised release following prison.
Today, Bowser was sentenced to three years in prison. Kate Gray reports:
Bowser’s group built and sold devices that were used to hack consoles, which can allow players to modify games and play pirated games. Bowser, a 51-year-old Canadian who was arrested in the Dominican Republic and is no relation to Doug Bowser or King Koopa, had already agreed to pay two separate fines: $4.5 million to Nintendo of America as restitution, and a further $10 million also to Nintendo of America as “monetary relief”. He has also had all of his consoles destroyed.
Read more at Nintendo Life.
The government’s press release:
The public face of a notorious video game piracy group was sentenced today to 40 months in prison for two federal felonies, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Gary Bowser, 52, a Canadian national of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty in October 2021 to Conspiracy to Circumvent Technological Measures and to Traffic in Circumvention Devices, and Trafficking in Circumvention Devices. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said, “These are serious criminal offenses with real victims and harm to the community.”
“This piracy scheme is estimated to have caused more than $65 million in losses to video game companies,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “But the damage goes beyond these businesses, harming video game developers and the small, creative studios whose products and hard work is essentially stolen when games are pirated.”
Bowser was a prominent leader of the criminal enterprise that developed and sold illegal devices that hacked popular videogame consoles so they could be used to play unauthorized, or pirated, copies of videogames. The enterprise targeted popular consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition, the Sony PlayStation Classic, and the Microsoft Xbox.
According to court documents, the Team Xecuter criminal enterprise is comprised of over a dozen individual members located around the world. These members include developers who exploit vulnerabilities in videogame consoles and design circumvention devices; website designers who create the various websites that promote the enterprise’s devices; suppliers who manufacture the devices; and resellers around the world who sell and distribute the devices. Bowser’s role in the conspiracy was to administer the websites that communicated with customers offering devices for sale.
As part of Team Xecuter, Bowser controlled websites that marketed the group’s products, announced new information about the products, and answered customer questions about the products. Bowser helped create and support online libraries of pirated videogames for its customers, and several of the enterprise’s devices came preloaded with pirated videogames. Even as game console companies announced new security features, Team Xecuter would roll out new devices designed to bypass such security.
In the sentencing memo, prosecutors quoted from a victim impact statement that said, “When video games are illegally copied and when circumvention devices become readily available, the video game industry—and the broader economy—experience a negative ripple effect…. This leads, at a minimum, to fewer incentives to create, and a less vibrant game scene.”
“This is not a victimless crime. The leaders of this multimillion-dollar scheme are responsible for diverting money from creative professionals who have worked hard to provide unique products and experiences,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “HSI, along with our law enforcement and private sector partners, will continue to pursue those who prove to be enemies of innovation and global commerce.”
“As the voice and public face of these sophisticated cybercriminals for years, Mr. Bowser bears responsibility for stealing millions of dollars in profit and victim losses from the intellectual property of others,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office. “He also wasted the efforts of legitimate companies as they attempted to build protections for their products.”
In September 2020, Bowser was arrested abroad and was deported from the Dominican Republic. Bowser has been in federal custody since his arrest. As part of his plea agreement, Bowser has agreed to pay $4.5 million in restitution to Nintendo of America.
Max Louarn, 49, a French national of Avignon, France, Yuanning Chen, 36, a Chinese national of Shenzhen, China, are both charged in the indictment. Neither is currently in federal custody.
This case is being investigated jointly by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Werner of the Western District of Washington, and Senior Counsel Anand Patel of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. The government also recognizes the significant contribution to this case by former Assistant United States Attorney Francis Franze-Nakamura.