Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland, has admitted taking part in an international hacking and intellectual property theft conspiracy, the FBI announced on Tuesday.
Leroux has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and criminal copyright infringement for his role in the theft of information from the networks of Microsoft and video game companies such as the Valve Corporation, Zombie Studios and Epic Games.
The data stolen by the man and his co-conspirators includes technical specifications and other information on Microsoft’s Xbox One console (before it was released) and the company’s Xbox Live system, pre-released versions of games developed by Epic Games and Activision, and even an Apache software simulator developed for the US army by Zombie Studios.
Leroux, who was apprehended by authorities in June 2014 while trying to flee to Canada, admitted taking part in the conspiracy between January 2011 and September 2012. During that period, the hackers stole intellectual property and other proprietary data worth over $100 million from the targeted companies. If the money spent by victims as a result of the hack attacks is also taken into consideration, the damage caused could be as high as $200 million, US authorities said. Law enforcement has seized more than $620,000 in cash and other criminal proceeds.
The suspects are said to have used the stolen Xbox One information to build their own version of the console before its official release. In July 2013, Leroux attempted to send one of these counterfeit gaming consoles to someone in the Republic of Seychelles. The package was intercepted at the time by the FBI.
Leroux is also accused of developing an exploit designed to generate in-game currency for the Xbox Live version of the FIFA video game. The software allowed the suspect and others to generate millions of such “coins.”
Leroux is one of the four suspects in this case and the third to plead guilty. Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, and Canada-based David Pokora, 22, both currently in custody, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement in late September. Nesheiwat and Pokora will be sentenced in April 2015. Leroux’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 14, 2015.
The fourth suspect is 19-year-old Austin Alcala of McCordsville, Indiana. Charges against him remain pending.