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Child pornography victim recruited while playing Fortnite, authorities say

Posted at 3:54 PM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-17 16:20:43-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A child pornography victim was recruited while playing the popular video game Fortnite, according to Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

They say Anthony Gene Thomas, 41, worked with a co-conspirator to contact victims through the popular game. Thomas, of Broward County, was arrested after he allegedly engaged in sexual activity and solicited photos from a 17-year-old he met in the game.

Thomas worked with his co-conspirator to bring the victim to his home for sex on August 25 of last year, a press release says. The minor, from Brevard County, was returned home on August 26 after their parents called and reported them missing.

Thomas and the minor remained in contact until October 11 when a search warrant was served on Thomas's phone. Pornographic pictures and videos of the minor were found.

The co-conspirator made contact with victim in the game and built a relationship before introducing them to Thomas, according to a press release. Thomas bought the minor a phone and credit cards as a way of manipulation, the press release says.

Authorities believe there could be as many as 20 additional victims, according to the release.

“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," Attorney General Ashley Mood said.

“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 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.