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FBI uses Nintendo Switch to find missing teen 2,000 miles away

By Melanie Uson Published Jul 18, 2023 2:45 pm

A missing girl was found after a friend saw her online on Nintendo Switch and reported it to the police.  

A report by ABC affiliate ABC15 detailed the incident just recently, stating that the teenager went missing for 11 days and authorities were able to locate her 2,000 miles away using her data on the video game system.

Her family noted that the teen mostly stays at home, which made her sudden disappearance seem strange.

The local search often resulted in a dead end, until the FBI used the information obtained from the missing teen’s Nintendo Switch and found her whereabouts in an apartment complex in Tolleson, Arizona, which is 2,000 miles away from her house. 

The authorities also found that a man named Ethan Roberts was the person responsible for the abduction. According to court records, Roberts “had befriended” the victim on the internet and then traveled to Virginia to pick her up. He later forced her to do child pornography.  

Roberts allowed the victim to bring her Nintendo Switch, which she used to connect to the internet to watch YouTube and download a game. Little did he know that the device has a feature that notifies gaming friends when a user goes online. 

A friend of the victim saw her name and recent activity on the device and immediately alerted the authorities.   

"It's probably nothing that anybody even had thought of at this point," retired Arizona DPS Director Frank Milstead said, adding that police have been using digital device trackers to locate suspects and find missing people. 

In this case, the FBI was able to find the kidnapper’s apartment complex through the Switch’s IP address. He was immediately arrested. 

Roberts was indicted in federal court for multiple charges, including child pornography and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, for which he made a plea deal. 

He has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.