Update: HiRez has sent a statement to VG247 regarding the arrest of Thomas Cheung, stating he has been fired from today.
“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 us in an emailed 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.”
CCP has also issued the following statement to VG247:
“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.”
Edit: The original story below wrongly listed Cheung as a former economy expert for EVE Online, but his official role was VR community contractor.
Original Story: Thomas Cheung, a community specialist at HiRez Studios for Smite, has been arrested as part of a 21 day operation to catch paedophiles attempting to meet children for sex.
“Operation Interception” was centered in Brookhaven, DeKalb County, GA, and resulted in the arrests of 21 individuals.
“Most of the arrestees, ranging in age from 20 to 55, travelled from areas around metropolitan Atlanta with the intent to meet a child for sex,” says the press release on the Georgia Bureau of Investigations website. “Multiple people were arrested who were in possession of suspected illegal drugs. Twenty-four digital devices were seized as evidence and processed during the operation.
“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. Online child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and ultimately arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. The children these predators target are both boys and girls. Since 2014, the Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested over 130 people in similar operations.”
Cheung has worked on Smite for the past four months and was previously heading up the community for HiRez hero shooter Paladins. He’s also a Twitch partner who is well-known for in-depth looks at the economy in World of Warcraft. Previously, he worked for CCP as a VR community contractor.
The full operation report is available on the GBI website.
We’ve reached out to HiRez for comment.