Hi-Rez Employee, Twitch Partner Arrested In Georgia Child Sex Sting
Yesterday afternoon, news broke that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, along with the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, arrested over 20 men after a five-day long sting operation. According to the official report from the GBI, the men were charged with a variety of crimes related to the sexual exploitation of children.
Among those arrested was Hi-Rez employee and Twitch partner, Thomas Ho-Yan Cheung, 32, widely known by his online personality, Elvine.
Cheung has been part of the gaming community for years. He got his start creating gold-making videos for World of Warcraft, has worked with various WoW-sites, and appeared at various industry events. He also worked for CCP Games in Atlanta prior to joining Hi-Rez Studios as a Community Specialist.
The sting was part of a months-long investigation called "Operation Interception," which targeted individuals who "communicate with children [sic] on-line, have sexually explicit conversations, and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex." Over five days beginning January 30, law enforcement officials from 22 different organizations arrested 21 men who not only believed they were having sexually explicit conversations with a minor but also reportedly traveled to meet them for sex.
Some of the charges against the men are as follows:
- O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007
- O.C.G.A 16-5-46, Trafficking of Persons for Labor or Sexual Servitude
The GBI notes that more arrests and charges may take place. The official report from the organization notes that over 63 cases were established during the investigation and only 21 of those have resulted in arrests thus far.
Following news of Cheung's arrest, gamers on Twitter noted that both Cheung's website and Twitch channel had been removed. Cheung's Twitter account listed him as a "SteelSeries / NZXT ambassador."
In an email comment to GameSkinny on the situation, SteelSeries said Tuesday morning that it had revoked all support and sponsorship for Cheung as soon as the news broke.
Cheung's former employer CCP Games offered an official statement on Twitter:
We at CCP Games are shocked and appalled to hear the news regarding Thomas Cheung, who worked with us as a VR Community contractor from Jan - Nov 2017. We consider this behaviour to be completely abhorrent and are reassured that the authorities have taken the appropriate action.— CCP Games (@CCPGames) February 5, 2019
GameSkinny also reached out to Hi-Rez studios for comment. The studio shared the following from Hi-Rez CEO Stew Chisam:
On Monday, February 4th, we learned through local news that Thomas Cheung was arrested in an operation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. 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.
This is a developing story.