Others have been more helpful. “When it comes to the biggest collections, and when something is stolen, we [collectors] are like individual fingers, and when connected we can form a fist,” says John Hancock, a retro gaming enthusiast with his own sizable collection. “When something crappy like that happens, collectors work with each other.”
When Jackson went to establishments closer to home, like Prestige Electronics and Arch City Gaming Company in Bridgeton, Missouri, he didn’t bother to dress up. And he apparently never really considered how close the stores were to each other – or that the owners might possibly know each other. He was not a criminal mastermind. He always had “a history of bullshit,” says Brassard. His hugs had an extended reach, but the lack of creativity ultimately killed him. Jackson drove to Denver in a van, and the clerk working at Level 7 Games saw him in the parking lot.
“He was like, ‘I just…got them,’” says Level 7 employee Jon Young. “He had some crazy rare stuff, like Bubble Bath Babes in the box. Matches we had never seen before, and he didn’t care at all. Again, Jackson refused to provide identification. As Young pretended to research the prizes – he had no intention of buying any of the games – he told a colleague to take a picture of Jackson’s license plate. Young remembered reading about Trade-N-Games and he called Brassard. It was December 13, 2019.
Jackson’s story on the games weren’t that unusual, and he told the various clerks he had never played them, which rang true. “Because he didn’t know anything about it,” says John Merz, owner of Bodach’s Games in St. Louis, another stop on Jackson’s list. “He didn’t flip a switch in my head. It didn’t trigger that it was Jason’s heist stuff. Jackson had a boxed copy of Bubble Bobble Part 2 (Bob and Bub versus skulls, 1993), and a copy of the NES game WURM: Journey to the Center of the Earth (chick fight versus underground humanoids, 1991) which had also been in the safe, but it was torn from its WATA-rated plastic case. What Merz didn’t know at the time was that Brassard was stalking Jackson.
“I paid [Jackson] in cash,” Merz says. “We posted the games on Facebook, and Jason came over with a cop and said, ‘This stuff is mine.“So when Jackson called Merz and said he was coming back with more games, this time three undercover agents were waiting, dressed like civilians, lazily rummaging through Magic: The Gathering cards and NES cartridges. . As Jackson left the counter, the officers descended.
“He started swearing,” Merz says. “These are mine! I got them forever is fucking bullshitThen: “I have to go to the bathroom!” Jackson clutched his chest as they put the handcuffs on; officers had to call an ambulance to the store. Brassard was sitting just outside in his truck, biting himself nails.
Jackson was arrested for possession of stolen property, taken to a local hospital and released. After the surveillance, Brassard went to the police station with the undercover officers. The men couldn’t believe it; the ordinary heist that was also historic and quite hilarious. And, there were NES porn games, really? So Brassard put Peek-a-Boo Poker videos on YouTube to show them it was real.
Jackson was arrested again in February 2020 for driving a car with expired plates, then charged with one count of burglary and three counts of theft, one for over $25,000, two for amounts over $750. . By then, Lunsford had enough evidence to locate him at Trade-N-Games at the time of the robbery, using his phone data from a GPS warrant request.
For what is probably the most valuable video game theft in history, Jackson was sentenced to 17 years in prison, suspended for felony. Part of his probation deal depended on him providing information about the rest of the games and paying approximately $24,000 in restitution. (Charges were never filed against English, or the other woman, in connection with the case.)
Cuff used walk to the back of the store in the morning, just so he can see his games. Seeing them was like breathing a little easier, not to mention the paperwork piling up on his desk, the bathroom trash can overflowing with fluffy paper towels, the mini-fridge that needed more Coke Light. Walking slowly through the mass of his collection, he could gaze at the colorful backs of the boxes, literate in congruence on shelves that stretched the walls. Nothing else had ever made him feel such ambition, the years required, the dedication – how he had sought to find not only the games but also the ones that were in the best condition. He had taken his fiancee, Hope, to the store one night, held her hand, and led her into the safe.
“Everything lit up…and he showed me around, and it was overwhelming,” says Hope, now his wife. This is how she first understood the pride of the man she was to marry – the type of collector who had pursued her everything. He showed her ROB (Robotic Operating Buddy), the 1986 NES robot console in its sought-after box, esoteric like a clean copy of the Outback Joey exercise game for the Genesis (kangaroo versus calories, 1993) and its cherry Rampage 2: Universal Tour for Nintendo 64 (Giant Animals vs. Buildings, 1999) comes with a plush rat keychain. He drove her to Tennessee to pick up a late 1970s Atari 2600 mall kiosk, from conventions like the Midwest Gaming Classic in Wisconsin; he knew all the vendors and showed her around the kiosks full of games. When he asked her to marry him and she said yes, his friend presented them with a custom NES painted in bridal white, complete with her controllers and hers. Did she know about the games in the safe? Duh—Cheetahmen II, Final Fight Guy, Hagane for Super Nintendo. Not only his work, but his life’s work, which had become part of his; their children, from different marriages, played at the store, at home.
After receiving some of the stolen games from police evidence in three batches – the last of which had come in a Huggies box – he laid them on the table with a white photo background where he usually took pictures of the games from the store before. to put them online for sale, so he can see them better. Tapper’s copy that had been sold to Slackers, cherry in the safe, looked like a car that had backed into it. Stuntman (guys against the laws of physics, 1983), a rare Panda game, and Quadrun (runts against kidnappers, 1983) – Jackson had unsealed those from the old factory in shrink wrap. The Atari 2600 Boing game! (bubbles versus squares, 1983), complete in box, was now flattened, the cardboard furrowed. His copy of Guardian (Planet vs. Ship, 1982) was notched where an old price tag was in the top right, untouched by whoever had bought it long ago. Jackson had eradicated serial numbers from the Panesian “porn” trinity – Bubble Bath Babes (bubbles against gravity, plus a naked woman), Hot Slots (slot machine against lust, plus, possibly, a naked woman), Peek-a -Boo Poker (the hand dealt to you versus a naked woman’s) – with what Brassard imagined must be steel wool or a belt sander.