Nintendo Switch Console Helped FBI Locate Kidnapped Child

The FBI used a Nintendo Switch console to locate an abducted 15-year-old girl, who had been missing for 11 days back in August 2022, Forbes reports.

In a horrendous case involving kidnap and sexual exploitation, a teenage girl was found and rescued only after she logged online with her Nintendo Switch.

The unidentified Virginian teenager is a homebody, said family and friends, and unlikely to run away. However, she met a stranger—then 28-year-old Ethan Roberts—on the online chatting platform Omegle in January 2022, when she was just 14 years old. The two talked for a few days, then moved their conversation to Discord and Snapchat. Roberts sent nudes of himself to the girl and requested explicit images of her as well, to which she complied. Later, Roberts traveled 2,000 miles from his apartment in Tolleson, Arizona to the young girl’s hometown. Their encounter culminated in Roberts kidnapping the girl and bringing her back to Arizona. Roberts coerced the teen, “insisting” she meet strangers on Omegle to sell them nudes via Snapchat between August 3, 2022 and August 14, 2022, according to court documents viewed by Kotaku.

When the girl went missing on August 3, folks in Virginia put up fliers to locate her. Keitra Coleman, a volunteer with the local nonprofit Hear Their Voices (which helps find missing and exploited children, domestic violence victims, and people experiencing homelessness), told ABC15 they were on the case.

“We immediately reached out to her family and spoke with her grandmother and her stepdad, and that next day, we were out there ‘boots on the ground.’” Coleman said. “She went through a lot in those few days [and] reminded me so much of my daughter.”

Unfortunately, no one was able to pinpoint her location—until the girl booted up her Nintendo Switch to watch YouTube videos and download a game. A friend saw that she was online and informed the authorities. With Nintendo’s cooperation, the FBI culled the Switch’s IP address, uncovered her location, and moved in to arrest Roberts. Retired Arizona DPS Director Frank Milstead, who was not involved with the case, told ABC15 that police agencies often use digital device tracking info to apprehend suspected criminals and find missing people.

“It’s probably nothing anybody even had thought of at this point,” Milstead said. “The fact that somebody else down the road—another child—was bright enough to go, ‘Hey, look, my friend is online, and she’s been missing, and I need to tell somebody.’ Everything’s connected to Wi-Fi [and] LTE (long-term evolution devices). A cell phone, an iPad, a watch, whatever it is—you can use those things to locate people. The bad guys need to know that the police are watching and that you’re leaving a digital footprint everywhere you go. We will find you.”

In an email to Kotaku, an FBI representative said this case is proof that no one can escape the agency’s wide reach and expansive resources.

“Thanks to the local police department’s quick response and FBI Norfolk’s ingenuity, we were able to locate the missing victim through her gaming account and reunite her with her family,” the FBI representative said, linking to a press release on the incident. “As the world evolves, so does the FBI and how we solve cases. This is just one example of that. And while criminals might think crossing state lines will help them get away, this case also serves as a reminder that because of the FBI’s wide reach and partnership with local law enforcement—these predators will be caught, and they will pay the consequences.”

Kotaku reached out to Nintendo for comment.

Roberts was indicted on four counts, including online enticement of a minor, transportation of a minor, and receipt of child pornography. He made a plea deal and has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison this past April.

Update 07/17/23 2:25 p.m. ET: Added comment from FBI.


Roblox Hit With Lawsuit Claiming It Profits Off Child Gambling

An image shows a robber running away in Jailbreak.

Image: Roblox

Roblox has long been accused of not doing enough to make sure its massively popular gaming platform is free of toxicity and exploitation. Now parents are joining together in a class-action lawsuit to take the $17 billion company to court over allegations that it gets children into online gambling and profits off of it.

As first reported by Bloomberg Law (via Axios), the lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California on August 15 on behalf of parents Rachel Colvin and Danielle Sass. They accuse the enormously successful game creation tool (that doubles as an online social hangout with over 65 million active users)of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and claim it acts in concert with third-party websites “to profit from gambling games meant to attract kids.”

A handful of online gambling sites are also included as defendants in the lawsuit. The parents’ argument rests on the fact that Roblox users, including kids, can use their in-game Robux paid for with real world cash to gamble on virtual items. While Roblox officially bars gambling and other illicit activities, the lawsuit claims the company is complicit since it allows the funds to be transferred to the gambling websites directly through the Robux wallet, on which it earns a healthy commission.

“Each of the Illegal Gambling Websites operates on or in concert with Roblox and the Gambling Website Defendants, facilitating an exchange of Robux for gambling credits that occurs on the Roblox platform,” the lawsuit alleges. “Indeed, Robux never leave the Roblox platform until they are exchanged for cash. Once a minor user’s credits are exhausted, the Gambling Website Defendants cash out their newly-acquired Robux and provide Roblox with its 30% transaction fee.”

Read More: Roblox Trying To Describe Adult Poop Is Very Funny

Roblox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Bloomberg Law in a statement that, “These are third-party sites and have no legal affiliation to Roblox whatsoever. Bad actors make illegal use of Roblox’s intellectual property and branding to operate such sites in violation of our standards.” It added that it continues to be “vigilant” in going after companies that violate its policies or “endanger the safety” of its community.

Roblox has recently tried to leverage the success of its kid-centric platform by trying to appeal to more mature audiences with games rated for users 17 and older, and tools to do job interviews inside the platform. The ‘metaverse’ of our dreams is apparently just another awkward conversation where someone asks you where you see yourself in five years. Roblox has lost 40 percent of its market value since this time last year, despite continuing to attract new players.


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