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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Broward County man is under arrest accused in a child pornography case that started through the popular online game Fortnite.
According to Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, Anthony Thomas, 41, allegedly engaged in sexual activity with a minor and solicited pornographic photos and videos of the victim.
According to the investigation, initiated by the Broward Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, Thomas first contacted the victim through the online game Fortnite with help of a co-conspirator who introduced the victim to Thomas through the game.
“Most games have chatting capabilities or voice over the games themselves. Obviously children are on these systems and predators prey on children whoever they are and gaming platforms are one of them,” said Broward sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas McInerney.
When the victim told Thomas about hardships at home, he “manipulated the victim with gifts, including credit cards and a cellphone to be able to be in direct and primary communication with each other,” according to the Attorney General’s office.
On August 25, 2018, Thomas and the co-conspirator picked up the 17-year-old victim and took the teen back to Thomas’s home where Thomas allegedly engaged in sexual activity with the victim, according to authorities.
When the teen’s parents called police stating their child was missing, police found the victim the next day and brought the victim home. However, the two remained in contact with one another.
On Oct. 11, law enforcement served a search warrant and seized Thomas’ phone containing pornographic images and videos of the victim, according to authorities.
“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. 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,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody.
Authorities believe there could be as many as 20 additional victims.
“Additionally, parents need to know that predators will use any means possible to target and exploit a child. I am asking parents and guardians to please make sure you know who your children meet online, and talk to them about sexual predators,” said Moody.
Thomas faces charges of 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.
Anyone with information about this case should call Broward County Detective Michael Joo at (954) 888-5241.