Team-Xecuter was a hacking group that sold both software and hardware for stuff like Nintendo consoles. While arguing that they were simply advocating for homebrew programs and a consumer’s right to repair their own property, gaming giants like Nintendo thought otherwise.
Having pursued them for years, last year the Japanese gaming giant were joined in their efforts by the US government, who quickly launched a formal criminal investigation into three of the 12 men alleged to be operating the company. Here’s how the Department of Justice describes their case against Team-Xecuter:
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. The indictment alleges that due to the illegal nature of its business, Team Xecuter continuously sought to evade enforcement efforts by victim companies, financial institutions, and law enforcement. Notably, Team Xecuter attempted to protect its overall business by using a wide variety of brands, websites, and distribution channels, according to the indictment. From approximately June 2013 through August 2020, Team Xecuter used a variety of product names for its devices, such as the Gateway 3DS, the Stargate, the TrueBlue Mini, the Classic2Magic, and the SX line of devices that included the SX OS, the SX Pro, the SX Lite, and the SX Core.
According to the indictment, Team Xecuter at times cloaked its illegal activity with a purported desire to support gaming enthusiasts who wanted to design their own videogames for noncommercial use. However, the overwhelming demand and use for the enterprise’s devices was to play pirated videogames. To support this illegal activity, Team Xecuter allegedly helped create and support online libraries of pirated videogames for its customers, and several of the enterprise’s devices came preloaded with numerous pirated videogames. According to the indictment, Team Xecuter was so brazen that it even required customers to purchase a “license” to unlock the full features of its custom firmware, the SX OS, in order to enable the ability to play pirated videogames.
It didn’t take them long to start making progress; 48 year-old French national Max Louarn and 51 year-old Canadian man Gary Bowser were both arrested late last year, with Bowser found in the Dominican Republic and extradited to the United States, where he’s been held since.
It’s alleged he “advertised and trafficked circumvention devices, while maintaining regular contact with resellers throughout the world.” Despite initially claiming he was innocent, Torrentfreak reports Bowser has since changed his mind and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and trafficking in circumvention devices, which both carry maximum prison sentences of five years.
Louarn was “arrested abroad in connection with the charges in this case,” and the government is seeking his extradition so he too can stand trial in the United States.
“Imagine if something you invented was stolen from you and then marketed and sold to customers around the world. That is exactly what Team-Xecutor was doing,” says Raymond Duda of the FBI. “This is a perfect example of why the FBI has made the prevention of the theft of intellectual property a priority. These arrests should send a message to would-be pirates that the FBI does not consider these crimes to be a game.”