TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CBS12) — State authorities say a man used the popular online video game Fortnite to recruit a teen for child pornography.
The Attorney General's Office announced the arrest of 41-year-old Anthony Gene Thomas of Broward County.
Investigators said a co-conspirator is the one who made first contact through Fortnite with a 17-year-old, then introduced Thomas to the teen.
Thomas built up a relationship with the teen, who talked about hardships at home, the Attorney General's Office said. Thomas gave the teen gifts, credit cards and a cellphone.
Last August, investigators said Thomas and the co-conspirator drove the teen back to his home in Broward County for sex. The teen's parents called police, who eventually found the teen and took them home.
Last October, investigators searched the suspect's home and seized pornographic images and videos of the teen, the Attorney General's Office said.
Investigators believe there may be up to 20 additional victims.
Authorities say it's critical parents talk to their children about their online habits. According to Statista, Fortnite has more than 200 million registered users worldwide. Epic reports its played by about 78 million people a month.
“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, Attorney General Ashley Moody 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. 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.”
Thomas is being 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.