Over the Super Bowl weekend, authorities in Georgia arrested 21 people in "Operation Interception", with the ages of those arrested between 20-25 who traveled near the Atlanta metro area trying to pick up children for sex. Yeah, disgusting... and a game studio worker and Twitch streamer was one of them.
Tommy Cheung worked for Hi-Rez Studios, the developer behind big games like Smite and Paladins, and doubled as a partnered Twitch streamer. Cheung was arrested over the weekend in Brookhaven, Georgia where he was charged with using a compute service "to seduce, solicit, lure or entice" a child, which is a felony in Georgia.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a press release that this child sex sting was months in the works, adding: "The goal of 'Operation Interception' was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line, have sexually explicit conversations, and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex. Additionally, the operation targeted those who are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor".
Kotaku reports from a police incident report that Cheung was arrested in a Brookhaven parking garage, and faces up to $34,435 in a fine and up to 20 years in jail.
Until being busted trying to pick up a child for sex, Cheung was a community specialist for both Smite and Paladins Strike for Hi-Rez Studios, as well as a Twitch streamer with 34,000 followers. A talent manager for streamers as well as the owner of Online Performers Group, Omeed Dariani, Cheung was in the "in" crowd of Twitch streamers. He added: "Thomas was definitely 'in.' The industry tends to view people in that crowd as safe and friendly. This is a good reminder that we only see the sides of performers that they want us to".
Hi-Rez Studios CEO and President Stew Chisam said he learned of Cheung's arrest from local news, and removed him from their staff roster immediately. Chisam said: "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 behaviour targeted in their Operation Interception will not be tolerated in Georgia".
Cheung's sponsor SteelSeries have also dropped him, something they announced on Twitter.