Child predator allegedly found victims through online video games
The popular game Minecraft is more than just something people play. It also functions as a massive social network for many of its fans, who meet and interact via on its virtual landscapes. Like any other social network, it can hide predators. Now, a Washington man has been arrested for using Minecraft to solicit sexual images from children he met on the game's servers.
Andrew Hartung, 34, was arrested on April 18 and charged with six counts of sex offenses. Hartung was previously convicted of child pornography in 2002, but never registered as a convicted sex offender as required by law. As a result, the New York Daily News reports Hartung was able to move into an apartment complex in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland that was "brimming with children" according to authorities. There he logged onto Minecraft as well as other games such as League of Legends where he would allegedly solicit minors.
Not surprisingly, Hartung allegedly interacted with multiple children across state lines. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that authorities began investigating his activities after a Colorado detective reported that Hartung may have approached a 12-year-old boy. Another boy's father went to the police after his son began receiving flirtatious text messages from Hartung, who was posing as a 15-year-old boy himself. Both boys, as well as at least two others, met Hartung either through Minecraft or League of Legends.
A forensic analysis of Hartung's computer and online conversations showed that Hartung would seek out and solicit minors, attempting to bribe them with both real and virtual gifts to send him nude photos of themselves. Hartung's bribes including money, cigarettes, electronics and other expensive gifts, a virtual diamond Minecraft sword, and League of Legends game cards.
According to authorities, Hartung's conversations also indicated he was planning to meet with them and in some cases planned illegal sexual activity.
Hartung's bail has been set at $500,000 and he remains in jail. he's been charged with three counts of sexual exploit of a minor, two counts of communication with a minor for immoral purposes, and one count of possession of child pornography. His arraignment is May 5.
Photo via Kings County Sheriff's Office