A Florida man arrested on charges of child porn and unlawful sex with a minor allegedly used 'Fortnite' to find his victim, and authorities are worried there could be up to 20 others

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  • A 41-year-old Florida man has been arrested and faces charges of unlawful sex with a minor and 22 counts of child pornography, among other charges.
  • Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the suspect, Anthony Gene Thomas, allegedly used the video game "Fortnite" to meet the 17-year-old victim.
  • Moody said that a search of Thomas's phone uncovered multiple images and videos of the underage girl, and investigators believe there could be more victims.

A Florida man arrested and facing charges of unlawful sex with a minor and 22 counts of child pornography allegedly used "Fortnite" and an accomplice to meet the victim, prompting a response from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

In a statement posted to the Florida Office of the Attorney General website, Moody said that Anthony Gene Thomas, 41, of Broward County, used the video game "Fortnite" to meet a 17-year-old girl and have sex with her. Moody said pictures and video of the sexual encounter were discovered when police executed a search warrant on Thomas's phone.

"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 in the statement. "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."

Read more: Microsoft's Bing search engine reportedly had a child porn problem

Moody's statement did not specify whether images of other underage victims were found on Thomas's phone, but there's been a call for any victims to come forward, and she wrote that "authorities believe there could be as many as 20 additional victims."

The Attorney General's office says a co-conspirator first met the victim on "Fortnite" and eventually introduced her to Thomas. Moody alleges that Thomas "manipulated" the 17-year-old by offering her gifts, credit cards, and a cell phone after she told him she was having a hard time at home.

Eventually, Thomas and his co-conspirator allegedly coordinated an in-person meeting with the victim on Aug. 25, 2018. Moody says the pair picked the victim up and drove back to Thomas's home, where he allegedly had sex with her. The 17-year-old's parents reported her missing the same day; police located her at Thomas's residence and brought her home on August 26th. Moody says that Thomas stayed in contact with the teen after the encounter, and the search warrant that would uncover the child pornography was eventually executed on October 11th.

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. Police have not identified the name or age of the co-conspirator, or whether they will be facing criminal charges.

Like popular social networks, games like "Fortnite" put young players shoulder to shoulder with adults with few barriers to communication. As Moody suggests, parents should be monitoring their children's online activities to ensure they're not being exposed to physical and emotional violence.

"Parents need to know that predators will use any means possible to target and exploit a child," Moody's statement reads. "I am asking parents and guardians to please make sure you know who your children meet online, and talk to them about sexual predators."

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