Popular new mobile game Pokemon Go was used by four teens in Missouri to lure nearly a dozen victims into armed robberies, police and media reports said on Monday.
The game surged to the top of Apple’s app charts over the weekend and involves finding and capturing virtual Pokemon characters at various locations. Police warned game players to be cautious.
Police in O’Fallon, a suburb of St. Louis, arrested the four teens on Sunday after a robbery victim called police from a convenience store, according to a police statement.
Brett William Miller, 17, allegedly displayed a handgun and demanded the victim’s wallet and cash, police said. Shane Michael Baker, 18, was driving a BMW used in the crime while James D. Warner, 18, was present during the robbery, police said.
All three were charged with robbery and armed criminal action while a fourth teen was arrested and turned over to juvenile services, the O’Fallon police said in a release.
Bond was set at $100,000 and each of those charged was still held early on Monday, according to the St. Charles County prosecuting attorney.
O’Fallon police on Facebook warned area residents about Pokemon Go, which uses a mobile phone’s mapping and camera to play the free “augmented reality” game that was developed in part by Nintendo Co Ltd.
A Nintendo spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
“Using the geolocation feature of the Pokemon Go app, the robbers were able to anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims,” O’Fallon police Sergeant Bill Stringer said in a release.
“The Pokemon, graphics and sound effects are computer-generated, but seeing a Pikachu on the sidewalk in front of you is a fan’s digital dream come true,” Stringer said.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said there were nearly a dozen victims.
The game was the most downloaded free app on Apple’s app store while Nintendo’s shares surged nearly 25 percent for their biggest daily gains in history based on Pokemon Go’s success.
(Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Cynthia Osterman)