A 41-year-old Florida man was arrested after authorities said that he lured a 17-year-old girl he met through the popular online video game Fortnite and had sex with her. Officials said that the victim initially chatted with a 23-year-old woman who introduced her to Anthony Gene Thomas. The 23-year-old woman knew Thomas since she was 16 and had been sleeping with him.
When authorities arrested Thomas, they found pornographic images and videos on his phone of the victim. They believe that he may have victimized at least 20 other young girls before he was taken into custody.
"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," Florida Attorney General Ashley Mood said in a 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.
Mood warned parents to carefully monitor their children's online activities and talk to them about the potential dangers of strangers they meet online.
"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 was charged with a litany of crimes including unlawful sexual activity with a minor, 22 counts of child pornography, possession with intent to promote the sexual performance of a child, traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity and soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct using computers.
Authorities have not filed charges against the 23-year-old accused of helping Thomas.
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