Jess Cliffe, co-founder of the massively popular Counter-Strike, has been arrested on Thursday (1 January) on charges of sexual exploitation of an underage girl. He allegedly met the teenager through an adult dating site and paid her for sex multiple times in 2017.
According to local news reports, Cliffe, 36, was booked into the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle and appeared in court for a bail hearing on Friday.
Cliffe allegedly met the girl on SeekingArangement.com, an adult meet-up site that touts itself as the "#1 Sugar Daddy dating site in the world" where "Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies or Mommas both get what they want, when they want it."
He then communicated with her via text messages and other messaging platforms, including Snapchat, the girl told investigators, Seattle's KIRO 7 reports. The girl, now 16, said she met with him on at least three separate occasions at his home to have sex for money and was paid $300 an hour each time.
On one occasion, he purportedly videotaped portions of his sexual contact with her "against her consent". The girl said Cliffe claimed he was trying out his new phone's camera and said no to the idea. However, out of fear, she did not say anything when she realised that he was recording her. She later asked Cliffe not to post the video and he agreed.
He also allegedly told the girl that their arrangement via the adult website was "technically legal as he was paying her for her time," according to the investigation document, KIRO 7 reports.
Cliffe admitted to investigators that he did pick up the girl on a date and engaged in sex acts with her for which he paid. His lawyer, Zachary Wagnild, also confirmed that Cliffe and the witness had sexual relations but said his client was unaware that she was a minor.
"Even if the facts are true as claimed, this was a meeting on an adult website, he was not looking for underage women and had no idea this woman was underage," Wagnild said when requesting no bail be set for his client, Ars Technica reports. He also noted that Cliffe was not a flight risk and is a homeowner with his girlfriend in Seattle.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney's office initially requested to set his bail at $250,000 (£177,017) "for the community's safety and the victim's safety". Describing Cliffe as a "risk to the community based on these findings," Judge Rod Benjamin set bail at $150,000 and set a no-contact order between him and the witness. The arrest record shows that Cliffe has been released on bond.
Cliffe's attorney said his client is cooperating fully with the investigation, which has been ongoing since May 2017. His next court appearance has been set for 5 February.
In a statement to Kotaku, Valve Corporation said Cliffe has been suspended while it investigates the incident. "We are still learning details of what actually happened. Reports suggest he has been arrested for a felony offense," a company spokesperson said. "As such we have suspended his employment until we know more."
Cliffe co-created the original Counter-Strike as a mod for Half-Life with Minh Lee while in college in 1999. He was later hired by Valve in 2003 and went on to work on level design for Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2.
He also voiced the iconic line "Counter-Terrorists Win!" in the original game and worked on its latest iteration Counter-Strike: Global Offense — one of the most popular games on Steam with over 677,000 peak concurrent players at the time of writing, according to data from Steam.
IBTimes UK has reached out to Valve for further comment.