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Florida man arrested after child porn victim recruited through Fortnite

Anthony Gene Thomas, 41, charged with 22 counts of child porn

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Broward County man was arrested on child porn charges after investigators learned a 17-year-old was contacted while playing the online game Fortnite, according to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody's office.

Anthony Gene Thomas, 41, is accused of engaging in sexual activity with a minor and soliciting pornographic photos and videos of the victim, according to a news release. Investigators said Thomas first contacted the victim through the game, and authorities believe there could be as many as 20 other victims.

"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," Moody said. "I am asking parents and guardians to please make sure you know who your children meet online and talk to them about sexual predators."

According to investigators, after developing a relationship with the victim, a co-conspirator used Fortnite to introduce the victim to Thomas. While communicating through the game, the teen opened up about hardships at home. 

In response, investigators said, Thomas manipulated the teen with gifts, including credit cards and a cellphone so they could stay in contact. Thomas and his partner eventually planned to pick up the 17-year-old and take the teen back to Thomas' home.

The release stated that Thomas and his partner brought the teen to Broward County last August, where Thomas had sex with the teen. The teen's parents called police when the teen couldn't be located. A day later, deputies found the teen and brought her home.

In October, deputies searched Thomas' home, where deputies said they recovered pornographic videos and photos of the teen.

"Parents need to know that predators will use any means possible to target and exploit a child," Moody said. "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."

Toni Chrabot, a former FBI agent, said sharing personal information -- like the teen did -- puts victims in a situation they don't know how to get out of.

"They take advantage of any vulnerability they can find," Chrabot said. "They're looking for something ... whether it's real or perceived that is lacking in their life, and then they will see about filling that void."


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