ATLANTA (Heartland Newsfeed) — A community manager for Hi-Rez Studios and active Twitch Partner Thomas Cheung was arrested Thursday during a sex trafficking sting near Atlanta which targeted children, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI).
According to a report from Variety, Cheung is being charged with using a computer service to seduce, solicit, lure or entice an illegal act, coming from jail booking information from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, with additional charges forthcoming from GBI.
Cheung started working for Hi-Rez last April as a community specialist (CS) for the Paladins Strike game, according to his LinkedIn profile, later becoming a CS for Smite in November. He previously worked as CS for another gaming community, CCP and attained Twitch Partner status in 2012.
21 people were arrested throughout a five-day period beginning Wednesday as part of an undercover investigation co-coordinated by the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Brookhaven Police Department, DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office and the US Marshals Service’s southeastern regional Fugitive Task Force.
All parties arrested were automatically charged under the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 and/or for trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude.
The investigation, tagged “Operation Interception” was centered in Brookhaven and had been ongoing for several months. Most of the men arrested ranged in age from 20 to 55 and traveled from other parts of the country to Brookhaven to meet with a child for sex, according to GBI. The ICAC unit has arrested over 130 people in similar operations since 2014.
“This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them,” stated GBI Special Agent and ICAC commander Debbie Garner in a prepared statement. “This successful operation was a true partnership between all the agencies involved. We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”
ICAC went undercover online using websites that the sex industry actively advertises in, mostly pornographic websites. This resulted in one arrest from these efforts, which included a monetary component and charges for human trafficking violations for arranging to purchase sex from a minor. This was a considerable decrease compared to previous operations.
GBI states that there were heavier media campaigns focused on deterring those who want to purchase sex with a minor prior to Super Bowl LIII, a coordinated effort made by law enforcement, non-profit organizations and victim service organizations, to educate the public and various industries about the indicators of human trafficking.
“We applaud this task force for its vigilance and proactive efforts to protect our children,” said DeKalb County State’s Attorney Sherry Boston in a prepared statement. “Those who prey upon our most vulnerable population must be held accountable for their actions. We will work quickly to file formal charges with the ultimate goal of prosecuting the accused individuals in the interest of justice for these egregious crimes.”
As a result, the gaming community has cracked down on Cheung. Twitch has suspended his channel. Hi-Rez president and CEO Stewart Chisam made a public statement on Twitter, citing Cheung has been fired as of today:
A brief statement on @Elvinelol pic.twitter.com/2BJOjTaI0c
— HiRezStew (@schisam) February 5, 2019
Chisam actually doubled-down prior to the statement, soliciting for donations to The Polaris Project, a non-profit organization who wants to help eradicate the plague of human trafficking and restore freedom to their survivors:
Join me in making a donation to the @Polaris_Project, to help eradicate human trafficking and restore freedom to survivors. https://t.co/tWugIikcm9
— HiRezStew (@schisam) February 5, 2019
A court date for Cheung is pending.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.