The FBI used messages from a Nintendo Switch to help locate a missing 15-year-old girl in Arizona last summer, according to court records.
After the girl disappeared from her Virginia home on August 3, 2022, volunteer Keitra Coleman and her team provided assistance to the family of the missing girl.
Coleman said that after the incident, the family of the missing girl was contacted immediately, and the next day, he visited the nearby area with a leaflet and learned that the girl was a “home girl” and it was unlikely that she would run away from home.
According to federal court records, Ethan Roberts, then 28, befriended the girl on the Internet, traveled to Virginia to find her, and later forced him to use child pornography.
After the man took the missing girl away, he took her Nintendo Switch game console, and when she connected to the Internet to watch YouTube and download games, she left a page path (breadcrumb).
The Switch has a feature that alerts friends on the Switch every time the user goes online. The feature was meant to encourage team play, and a friend of the girl saw her name at a recent event and alerted authorities.
With the help of Nintendo, the FBI obtained the IP address of the Switch, which led to the location of the kidnapper Ethan Roberts and successfully rescued the missing girl.
In the end, Ethan Roberts was indicted in federal court on charges of possessing child pornography and transporting minors with intent to commit sexual crimes. He reached a plea deal and was sentenced in April to 30 years in federal prison.
“Police agencies routinely use digital device tracking to capture suspects and find missing persons,” said retired Arizona DPS Director Frank Milstead, adding that anything that can connect to WiFi to LTE, including cell phones, iPads, watches, etc. These things can be used to locate the user’s location.