FBI Uses Nintendo Switch To Find Missing Child 2,000 Miles Away

The FBI was able to successfully locate a missing child more than 2,000 miles away from where they disappeared thanks to help from a Nintendo Switch. The gaming console, as well as a concerned friend, helped authorities bring the child home from the other side of the United States.

A 14-year-old girl went missing from her home in Virginia in August 2022, and a lengthy search eventually located her in Arizona at the home of a man she’d met online. The man, later identified as 28-year-old Ethan Roberts, had groomed her and convinced her to come with him to his apartment on the other side of the country.

Roberts is said to have met the girl on Omegle before moving their conversation to Discord and Snapchat. There, he both sent nudes to the girl and asked her for some in return, which she sent. He then came to visit her in he hometown before kidnapping her and bringing her home with him.

After a frantic search, it took the help of the Nintendo Switch and one of the girl’s gamer friends to find her. The friend noticed that the missing teen was still signing into Switch and therefore had the console with her. She contacted the authorities, who were able to use the Switch to track the girl to the man’s apartment in Arizona. There, she’d been forced to meet strangers on Omegle to sell her nudes to them via Snapchat for 11 days.

Retired Arizona DPS Director Frank Milstead, who wasn’t involved with this case, told ABC15 that while police often use cell phones and laptops to track people, no one considered asking about gaming devices.

“It’s probably nothing anybody even had thought of at this point. The fact that somebody else down the road—another child—was bright enough to go, ‘Hey, look, my friend is online, and she’s been missing, and I need to tell somebody.’ Everything’s connected to Wi-Fi [and] LTE (long-term evolution devices),” Milstead said.

“A cell phone, an iPad, a watch, whatever it is—you can use those things to locate people. The bad guys need to know that the police are watching and that you’re leaving a digital footprint everywhere you go. We will find you.”

Ethan Roberts was indicted for online enticement of a minor, transportation of a minor, and receipt of child pornography. He was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in April 2023 after accepting a plea deal.

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill