• Attorney general: Alleged predator used ‘Fortnite' to contact victim

    By: Ann Smajstrla, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida authorities say a man used the video game "Fortnite" to solicit a child for pornographic images.

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    Anthony Gene Thomas, 41, of Broward County, Florida, faces several charges, including 22 counts of child pornography and unlawful sexual activity with a minor, according to a statement from Florida Attorney General Ashley Mason, which says, in part:

    “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,” Mason said. “We have reason to believe there could be additional victims, and I am asking anyone with information about the recruiting of minors for child pornography, or any other type of sexual exploitation, to call law enforcement immediately.”

    An investigation found that a co-conspirator contacted the victim, who lives in Brevard County, Florida, through the online video game "Fortnite," the statement said. The co-conspirator allegedly connected the victim to Thomas. Authorities said the victim confided in Thomas about hardships that were happening at home, and Thomas responded by manipulating the victim with gifts, including credit cards and a cellphone so they could be in direct contact with each other.

    On Aug. 25, 2018, Thomas and the co-conspirator allegedly picked up the victim and brought them to Thomas’s Broward County home. The victim’s parents called the police, who found the victim and brought them back home Aug. 26. Thomas and the victim remained in contact, the statement said.

    Law enforcement officers served a search warrant Oct. 11 and allegedly found pornographic images and video of the victim on Thomas’s phone. He was arrested and charged with soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct using computers, traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity, possession with intention to promote sexual performance of a child, 22 counts of child pornography and unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

    Authorities believe Thomas could have as many as 20 additional victims, the statement said.

    Mason stressed in the statement that parents should monitor who their child talks to online, and should talk with their child about sexual predators.

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