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Hi-Rez Employee, Twitch Partner Arrested in Super Bowl Child Sex Sting

Updated: Hi-Rez Studios community manager and Twitch Partner Thomas Cheung was arrested last week during a Super Bowl sex trafficking sting near Atlanta that targeted men traveling to the area to have sex with a child, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

Cheung was arrested on Jan. 31 and charged with using a computer service to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child to commit an illegal act, according to Dekalb County Jail records. Additional charges may be forthcoming, according to the GBI as spotted by Rod Breslau.

“On Monday, February 4th, we learned through local news that Thomas Cheung was arrested in an operation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations,” Stew Chisam, CEO and president of Hi-Rez Studios told Variety in a statement. “At this point, we know only what has been reported in the local news and by local law enforcement, and cannot comment on specifics of Mr. Cheung’s case, other than to say that, as of today, Mr. Cheung is no longer employed by Hi-Rez Studios. As a parent, it is difficult to imagine more disturbing allegations than those laid out in the news reports. We commend the efforts of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations and other law enforcement to protect our state’s children and to send a strong message that the behavior targeted in their Operation Interception will not be tolerated in Georgia.”
Cheung started working at Hi-Rez in April 2018 as a community specialist for “Paladins Strike,” according to his Linkedin profile. He became a community specialist for “Smite” in November. He worked at CCP as a community specialist prior to that. He has been a Twitch Partner since 2012.  As of Tuesday afternoon, Cheung’s Twitch page was suspended.

Cheun was one of 21 people arrested over a five-day period beginning Jan. 30 as a result of an undercover investigation coordinated by the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, Brookhaven Police Department, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, and United States Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force.

Those arrested were charged with Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 and/or Trafficking of Persons for Labor or Sexual Servitude.

“Operation Interception” was centered in Brookhaven, Georgia and took place over several months. Most of those arrested, men ranging in age from 20 to 55, traveled from other areas to Brookhaven to meet with a child to have sex, according to the GBI. Since 2014, the Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested over 130 people in similar operations.

“This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them,” GBI Special Agent in Charge, and Commander of the Georgia ICAC Task Force, Debbie Garner, said 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.”

During the operation, the ICAC task force went undercover online using sites that the sex industry advertises in. The investigators also made one arrest as a result of investigations conducted on these sites.  This arrest involved a monetary component and the person arrested was charged with human trafficking violations for arranging to purchase sex with a minor. This was a marked decrease compared to similar operations in the past.

Prior to Super Bowl LIII, according to the GBI, there were heavy media campaigns that were focused on deterring those who want to purchase sex with a minor. There was also a massive effort by law enforcement, non-profit organizations, and victims’ services organizations to educate the public and various industries about the indicators of human trafficking.

Over the course of the sting, some of those arrested had sexually explicit conversations with people they believed to be a child and most of those arrested traveled to meet a child for sex. Typically, there was no money exchanged for the planned meetups, according to the GBI.

Several subjects were identified as communicating simultaneously with multiple investigators posing as minors. Such activity confirms what investigators uncover conducting these types of investigations: that many predators specifically seek out minors on such websites to groom them as potential victims for sexual contact, according to the GBI.

During the operation, investigators had close to 200 exchanges with subjects on various social media or internet platforms. Many of those were exchanges in which the subject initiated contact and even after discovering they were conversing with a minor, directed the conversation towards sex. In some of those cases, the subject introduced obscene or lude content, often exposing the minor — who was actually a law enforcement officer — to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them, according to the GBI.

Over the course of the operation, over 63 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest. Twenty-one of those cases were concluded with arrests.

The full list of those arrested and charged in DeKalb County as part of “Operation Interception” is below:

  1. Nicholas Alexander Bowen, B/M, Chamblee, GA, 29, ride sharing and delivery driver
  2. Thomas Cheung, A/M, Alpharetta, GA, 32, gaming studio employee
  3. Jeshua Elijah Collins, B/M, Suwannee, GA, 22, deli clerk
  4. James Tunde Fadeyi, B/M Lithonia, GA 55, unemployed
  5. Walter Gonzalez-Amaya, H/M, Norcross, GA, 22, maintenance worker
  6. Larry Allen Gordon, B/M, Hampton, GA, 31, fast food restaurant employee
  7. Zachary Tye Gourdine, B/M, Conley, GA, 28, crane operator
  8. Dylan Michael Graham, W/M, Silver Creek, GA, 27, elevator mechanic
  9. Richard Jason Hyder, W/M, Elizabethton, TN, 41, asphalt grinding contractor
  10. Mitchell Allen Kennedy, W/M, Brooklyn, NY, 24, software company creative assistant
  11. Raheem Lalani, W/M, Birmingham, AL, 26, unemployed
  12. Marco A. Mendoza-Escalante, H/M, Riverdale, GA, 20, paving technician
  13. Darwin Menjivar-Fernandez, H/M, Powder Springs, GA, 22, restaurant server
  14. Juan Valencia-Patino, H/M, Jesup, GA, 22, student
  15. Juan Manuel Sanchez, H/M, Woodstock, GA, 25, automobile mechanic
  16. Junior Cornelius Timoteus, H/M, Atlanta, GA 25, restaurant server
  17. Oscar Ramirez, H/M, Atlanta, GA, 39, construction worker
  18. Dylan Golding Whynot, W/M, Kennesaw, GA, 32, behavioral health case manager
  19. Kyle A. Williams, B/M, Stone Mountain, GA, 32, warehouse employee
  20. Robert Tyler Wilson, B/M, Canton, GA, 31, automotive service technician
  21. Tarno M. Walters, B/M, Lawrenceville, GA, 22, grocery store employee

“We applaud this task force for its vigilance and proactive efforts to protect our children,” said DeKalb County District 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.”

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