Gary Bowser will plead guilty to two federal felony charges related to his work with Team Xecuter, the maker of the “SX” line of Switch modding devices and other tools Bowser now admits were “predominant[ly] and primar[ily] design[ed]… to allow purchasers to play pirated ROMs.”
Bowser, a 51-year-old Canadian national who went by the handle GaryOPA online, was arrested last year in the Dominican Republic before being extradited to the United States. The government is still seeking the extradition of French national Max Louarn, who was arrested in Tanzania at the same time as Bowser.
Bowser pleaded guilty to two of the 11 felony counts against him relating to trafficking in circumvention devices and conspiracy to do the same. Combined, the two charges come with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. In exchange, prosecutors have agreed to drop the other nine charges.
ROMs, money, and the homebrew “cloak”
In plea documents obtained by TorrentFreak, Bowser admits that he “knowingly and willfully participated in a cybercriminal enterprise that hacked leading gaming consoles and that developed, manufactured, marketed, and sold a variety of circumvention devices that allowed the enterprise’s customers to play pirated versions of copyrighted video games” between June 2013 and his arrest last year.
The plea goes on to admit that “the enterprise attempted to cloak its illegal activity with a purported desire to support homebrew enthusiasts who wanted to design their own games, [but] the predominant and primary design of the enterprise’s products was to allow purchasers to play pirated ROMs.”
When Nintendo released new Switch hardware designed to thwart those efforts, Team Xecuter made new devices that could be soldered onto the Switch’s internal circuit board, as the plea document lays out. In addition, Team Xecuter’s SX OS devices “surreptitiously accessed Nintendo’s servers and online gaming ecosystem without authorization,” making use of “servers that Nintendo maintained to facilitate Internet connectivity and to authenticate the use of genuine Nintendo software,” the plea reads.
According to the plea document, the success of devices like Gateway 3DS, Stargate, TrueBlue Mini, Classic2Magic, and the SX OS line “depended primarily on the availability of pirated ROMs.” Bowser also admits he and TeamXecuter “created and supported ROM libraries” for its customers to use through websites like MaxConsole.com and rom-bank.com.
“I [am] going to be busy setting up the ‘underground’ stuff (rompacks, coverarts, emulators) on maxconsole forums, that will also help on ‘grey side’ of the device for those wishing to play more than original snes cartridges,” Bowser wrote in an email quoted in the indictment against him.
“We have a plan in the works to have secure links to these retro rompacks on a protected server, so it will not be a problem,” Bowser said in another quoted email.
While Team Xecuter generated “at least tens of millions of dollars of proceeds” from device and software sales since 2013, Bowser estimates he personally made only $320,000 from direct payments by Team Xecuter and advertising sales on various websites he controlled, according to the plea. Despite that small cut, Bowser has agreed to pay $4.5 million to Nintendo to make up for part of what the document says is between $65 million and $150 million in total losses from copyright infringement enabled by Team Xecuter. That penalty is in addition to the $750,000 in fines that could be imposed directly during sentencing.
The plea deal seems likely to be officially accepted by US Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida in the coming days before sentencing is handed down. Bowser also still faces a civil lawsuit from Nintendo over the same work for Team Xecuter.
Listing image by Team Xeceuter