Fortnite used to lure minor into sex, child pornography
A Florida man has been arrested and charged with sex with a minor and possession of child pornography, after making contact with a teen through the popular online game Fortnite. Investigators saying there may be more victims.
Anthony Gene Thomas, 41, of Broward County was introduced to a 17 year-old by a female co-conspirator through Fortnite. They communicated via voice chat available to players. The teen talked about hardships at home, and Thomas started manipulating her by giving her gifts including credit cards and a cellphone, according to the Florida attorney general's office.
On August 25, Thomas and his accomplice picked up the victim and brought her to Thomas' apartment, where he allegedly assaulted her. When the teenager's parents found out she was missing, they called the police who were able to bring their daughter home the following day.
In October, police secured a search warrant for Thomas's apartment and seized his phone, where they found pornographic images and videos of the victim that led to his arrest.
Authorities now believe there might be as many as 20 victims in total, although additional details haven't been released.
"This case is disturbing not only because it involves child pornography, but also because a popular online game was used to communicate with the victim," Florida AG Ashley Moody said, asking others with information about the crime or others like it to contact police immediately.
Fortnite is one of the most popular games in the world, with a player base of 200 million. Last May, the UK-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) issued a warning that child sexual predators were using the game – among other apps and websites – to target their victims. Parents have the option to turn off the in-game voice-chat, but there is currently no way to avoid seeing text by other users, which the group says leaves all underage players at risk of being contacted by strangers.