Gary Bowser, a man sentenced in 2021 to 40 months in prison and a $14.5 million fine for his role in Nintendo hacking group Team Xecuter, has just been released from jail. But it's possible the massive amount of money he now owes in restitution may impact the entire rest of his life and livelihood.
Bowser was indicted back in 2020 alongside Max Louarn and Yuanning Chen for their activities as part of Team Xecuter, a hacking ring that sold chips allowing users to play pirated games. Despite seemingly having a smaller role in the operation as its marketing and PR manager, Bowser was the only one of the three ultimately tried and convicted in the US – Chen, a Chinese national, was never arrested, and Louarn was never able to be extradited to the US.
Bowser was initially charged with 11 felonies, including wire fraud, conspiracy to circumvent technological measures, trafficking in circumvention devices, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Bowser pled guilty to two of the charges, and was sentenced to first a $4.5 million fine and later a $10 million additional fine as well as up to 40 months in prison.
In a recent interview with podcaster Nick Moses, Bowser calls in not from Federal Detention Center SeaTac in Seattle, where he was incarcerated, but from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. He says he's awaiting processing before being sent home to Canada, having gotten out of prison early on good behavior.
Bowser claims that of the $14.5 million he owes, he has only been able to pay off $175 thus far, taken out in $25 monthly installments from his income from a job in the prison library. Should Bowser find a job at home in Canada, he says his pay will continue to be docked until the full amount is paid off, though his agreement with Nintendo only allows between 25% – 30% of his paid to be docked at a time. Previously, Bowser stated that while Team Xecuter earned "at least tens of millions of dollars of proceeds," he himself only received a small fraction of that.
Nintendo has historically been extremely aggressive when dealing with hackers and other perceived violations of its copyright, having previously gone after influencers, modders, ROM sites, and even other video games. During Bowser's trial, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnick reportedly said that Bowser's sentence was in part "a message" to deter other hackers.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.