Gary Bowser, a public face in the aftermarket modding scene, unwittingly became one of Nintendo’s most hated antagonists. Now, after more than a year in the proverbial federal dungeons, Bowser finally has his shot at freedom. Although even if Bowser seeks to return home to Canada (and not to a huge castle in the sky), Nintendo will continue to hunt the former modder for nearly $10 million in court-ordered restitution.
In 2020, Bowser (no, not this one) and fellow Team-Xecuter modding community members Max Louarn and Yuanning Chen were charged for supposedly jailbreak and sell major game consoles so they can play pirated versions of popular games. Nintendo had been hounding the modding team for years as they sold pirated versions of Nintendo Switches and 3DS. Federal authorities, along with Nintendo, wanted to throw the book at Bowser and put him in jail for nearly five years, though a judge settled for just over three years.
As first reported by TorrentFreakTHE The federal government put Bowser on a path to release more than two years before his original 40-month sentence in late March. According to a interview with game streamer Nick Moses, Bowser said he was moved to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Washington while the federal government prepared to send him home to his family in Toronto, Canada.
Bowser, a Canadian national living in the Dominican Republic at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty to selling and creating console chips in 2021. He was sentenced in 2022. Prosecutors claimed the overall console hacking and modding operation cost Nintendo and other console makers $65 million over several years. He was sent to SeaTac Federal Detention Center, a federal penitentiary in Seattle.
The interview was published on Friday, and it’s still unclear if Bowser made it home, though the former console modder said the follow-up detention center was very different from his previous time in prison, which included working in the prison library and spending time late at night monitoring the suicides of other inmates. Bowser said he was expected to learn this week how Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to handle his transportation back to Canada.
Once in Canada, the former Team-Xecuter member said he plans to apply for medical coverage and social assistance while he seeks work that requires his “expertise”. According to his original plea agreement, Bowser must pay $4.5 million in restitution to Nintendo of America. A separate civil action brought by Nintendo against Bowser also orders Bowser to pay Nintendo of America $10 million. Bowser told Moses that so far he had paid Nintendo about $175 out of his meager salary working at the prison library. He added that the deal would take almost a quarter of his gross monthly income.
Prosecutors called Bowser the “prominent leader” of the hacking team modding these consoles, although his online handle, GaryOPA, is better known as the person who runs the MaxConsole website. The site itself was selling hacking tools and pirated console hardware. by Bowser lawyers previously argued for much less time, claiming that he was just a small cog in the Team-Xecuter modding scene and only raked in $500-$1,000 a month. The lawyers said Bowser was “facing the weight” of the federal indictment, especially since other alleged modders like Louarn have not been extradited to the United States.