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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bowser released from federal prison but has to pay Nintendo for the rest of his working life

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Canadian Gary Bowser was indicted in 2020 before being jailed last year for his involvement with a Nintendo hacking group called Team-Xecuter. The charges related to his role as a salesperson and promoter of Team-Xecuter’s hardware and hacking tools, and Bowser pleaded guilty to his involvement. The US government requested a sentence of five years but, in probably the only bit of leniency Bowser received, he was jailed for 40 months in February 2022, and has now been granted early release 12 months later. He is currently in a US processing centre, and should be returned to Toronto in the next week.

But things are not going to end there. A large part of the case against Team-Xecutor was the financial damage it caused Nintendo, and the court slapped Bowser with an astronomical restitution amount totalling $14.5 million. 

Bowser recently granted a video interview to journalist Nick Moses (thanks Torrentfreak), though unfortunately the fact he’s still in a federal facility means the audio has some terrible echo. With regards to the $14.5 million in damages, $10 million of that is a consent judgement awarded to Nintendo, and this debt has priority, so Bowser’s been paying $25 a month from his prison wages, totalling $175 so far.

“The agreement with them is that the maximum they can take is 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income,” said Bowser. “And I have up to six months [after release] before I have to start making payments.”

Gary Bowser is in his fifties and, if you’ll excuse the beermat maths, would have to earn a gross amount of around $40 million to ever be clear of this debt. Financially speaking, this is a life sentence.

Obviously one can’t condone criminality, and stealing Nintendo games is straight-up theft. Gary Bowser did a bad thing and he’s ultimately copped to it, and he’s clearly been made an example of. It’s worse when you consider he was the public face of Team-Xecutor rather than running the operation. Bowser was indicted alongside French national Max Louarn, who was arrested in Tanzania but managed to avoid extradition to the USA and has not faced charges, and Yuanning Chen, who has not been caught. Nintendo claimed Team-Xecutor was generating millions in revenue, but Bowser’s solicitor said in court his client was being paid $500-$1000 a month (the judge even acknowledged Bowser’s smaller role in the scheme when sentencing).

Your mileage may differ, but locking up a person for a year feels like punishment enough for being involved in videogame piracy. Making them pay roughly a third of their salary towards the multi-billion dollar corporation they ripped-off for the rest of their life feels overly punitive. And it remains almost unbelievable that, of all the surnames in all the world, Nintendo’s lawyers set out to ruin the life of a dude called Bowser.

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