A 13-year-old girl from Kansas was located by police after she was taken out–of-state by a 33-year-old man from Georgia after they met on the children’s gaming app, Roblox.

Clayton County police said they arrested Howard Graham, 33, on March 1 after they discovered he had convinced a 13-year-old girl from Topeka, Kansas, to run away from home while chatting on Roblox.

He was charged with with sex trafficking, kidnapping, and rape, according to authorities.

Graham and the teenager met on the app on Feb. 18, Captain John Ivey said in a news conference on March 2.

After only two days of talking on the app, the man convinced the teenager to run away from home, telling her he would come to pick her up, police said.

On the early morning of Feb. 20, investigators said the girl snuck out of her house and was picked up by Graham, who then drove her back to Clayton County, Georgia, nearly 900 miles away.

Over the next few days, police said they had “sexual intercourse many times.”

The girl started feeling uneasy after a couple of days and sent a message to her mother through Roblox on Feb. 24, sharing the address of a Dollar General where she had been taken, Ivey said.

“We’re truly lucky we found this young girl and she was alive,” the police captain added during the news conference. “I wish people would pay more attention to what their kids are doing.”

“Predators will go on and prey on little kids,” he added.

The gaming app’s “mission is to bring the world together through play,” according to its website. “We enable anyone to imagine, create, and have fun with friends as they explore millions of immersive 3D experiences.”

“We were deeply saddened to hear about this case. There is nothing more important to parents — including the many parents who work at Roblox — than ensuring that children are safe when they learn and play, online or off,” William Nevius, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs at Roblox, said in a statement shared with McClatchy News.

Roblox’s chat feature is “incredibly limited” and “heavily filtered,” Nevius told McClatchy.

He added that people can’t chat with “anyone on the internet” and the chat feature doesn’t allow users to share specifics such as location or any sexually explicit content. For users under 13, the filters are even stricter and forbid any potentially identifiable personal information, he said.

Nevius said it “seems so difficult for something like this to happen on Roblox.”

“We have stringent safety systems and a team of thousands of moderators who enforce a strict set of community standards on Roblox, including zero tolerance for sexual content of any kind,” he said in the statement.

Police said they tracked down and arrested Graham on March 1 at his job and he was put in custody. Authorities in Kansas and the FBI will be involved in the continued investigation.

Officers said they are currently searching the man’s belongings for further evidence to potentially determine if he targeted other children.

“It was quite pleasurable to see the reaction on his face,” when police arrested Graham, Ivey said in the news conference.

The girl has since returned home to Kansas safely.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

To report potential trafficking situations, you can contact the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or chat with the online hotline.

Cassandre Coyer is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter covering the southeast while based in Washington D.C. She’s an alumna of Emerson College in Boston and joined McClatchy in 2022. Previously, she’s written for The Christian Science Monitor, RVA Mag, The Untitled Magazine, and more.

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