One of Hi-Rez Studio’s community specialists has been arrested for alleged child sex offences. Thomas Cheung, who worked on both Smite and Paladins, was one of 21 people arrested earlier this week following an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
According to the GBI, the investigation, which was named Operation Interception, was intended “to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line [sic], 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.”
Cheung worked on Smite for four months, having previously worked within the community team of Hi-Rez’s hero shooter, Paladins, as well at Eve Online developer CCP. Cheung is also a Twitch partner, known for his examinations of World of Warcraft’s economy. The investigation leading to his arrest followed several months of planning alongside the Georgia Internet Crimes against Children task force, which has arrested more than 130 people in similar operations since 2014.
In a statement issued to PCGamesN, Hi-Rez Studios CEO and President, Stew Chisam, said that “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.”
PCGamesN has also reached out to representatives from Twitch regarding Cheung’s arrest. At time of writing, it appears that his account on the streaming platform has been disabled. We will update this story if we hear back.