By a Biometrica staffer
Two leaders of ‘Team Xecuter,’ one of the world’s most notorious videogame piracy groups, have been arrested and are in custody facing charges in Seattle, the US Department of Justice said in a statement. The group grew so brazen over the years, that it allegedly made its customers even purchase a “license” to unlock features so they could play pirated videogames.
Team Xecuter developed and sold illegal devices that hacked popular videogame consoles so they could be used to play unauthorized, or pirated, copies of videogames. The criminal 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.
Its leaders Max Louarn – a French national of Avignon, Yuanning Chen – a Chinese national of Shenzhen, and Gary Bowser – a Canadian national of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, were charged in a federal indictment. Louarn and Bowser were arrested abroad last month in connection with the charges in this case.
The US will seek Louarn’s extradition to stand trial in the United States. Bowser was arrested and deported from the Dominican Republic, and appeared today in federal court, in New Jersey.
Each defendant is charged with 11 felony counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and to traffic in circumvention devices, trafficking in circumvention devices, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Imagine if something you invented was stolen from you and then marketed and sold to customers around the world. That is exactly what Team Xecuter was doing. 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,” said Special Agent in Charge Raymond Duda of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office.
The criminal enterprise is made up 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.
Due to the illegal nature of its business, Team Xecuter continuously sought to evade enforcement efforts by victim companies, financial institutions, and law enforcement, the indictment says. It attempted to protect its overall business by using a wide variety of brands, websites, and distribution channels. From 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.
At times, the criminal enterprise cloaked its illegal activity with a purported desire to support gaming enthusiasts who wanted to design their own videogames for noncommercial use. But the overwhelming demand and use for its products 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.