Prosecutors: Counter-Strike co-creator Jess Cliffe paid teen for sex

Prosecutors say Jess Cliffe, the co-creator of the video game Counter-Strike who was arrested for sexual exploitation of a child, paid a minor to have sex with him in 2017 and recorded her against her will.

Cliffe, who was placed on leave from Valve Corporation where he worked as a designer, allegedly met a girl on SeekingArrangement.com, a website that “delivers a new way for relationships to form and grow,” according to the site. “Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddies or Mommas both get what they want, when they want it.”

The girl, now 16, told investigators she communicated with Cliffe via text message and another message platform such as Snapchat. The case started last May when the King County Sheriff’s Office received a Child Protective Services referral.

The teen told investigators that Cliffe would pick her up and drop her off at an intersection near her Seattle home.

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She “reported meeting with Jess A. Cliffe to have sex for money at least three separate times, and that each time she was paid $300 for one hour,” according to a probable cause document. “She further reported that on the last occasion while engaged in sex acts with Jess A. Cliffe at his home, he attempted to and successfully video recorded portions of their session against her consent.”

Teen’s interview with detectives 

The teen explained to detectives the Cliffe made a reference to trying out his new phone camera, but she was horrified by the idea and said no. When she realized he was recording, she said nothing out of fear, the teen told investigators.

On the way home, she asked Cliffe not to post the video and he agreed, according to court documents.

Cliffe allegedly told the teen that their arrangement through SeekingArrangement.com “was technically legal as he was paying her for her time,” according to the investigation document.

“At this point, (the teen) wanted to point out that it was illegal to be in possession of child pornography (in reference to the video he had just taken), but decided against it as to not upset him in addition to the fact that [she] could not be certain that he was aware of her true age of 16 years.”

Detectives served a search warrant to SeekingArrangement.com for Cliffe’s information. When the teen was giving his photo in a lineup, she said she was 80 percent certain he was the man who paid her to have sex with him at his West Seattle home.

Cliffe met with detectives late Wednesday at the Southwest Precinct. He admitted picking up a date and engaging in sex acts in which he paid her for her time, police said. He was arrested there and booked into the King County Jail at 1:17 a.m. the following morning.

Attorney: Cliffe ‘was just as flabbergasted as anyone’

Cliffe’s attorney Zachary C. Wagnild said he’s completely cooperating with the investigation, and noted that he drove himself to the police precinct.

There were no discussions about her age, and to Cliffe’s knowledge the video did not circulate anywhere, the attorney said.

Cliffe, who is on leave from his job in Bellevue, graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Management Science. As an amateur photographer, he also took pictures for his hobby site VintageSeattle.org, which continued until 2012. That site posted high-resolution photos of old Seattle, and Cliffe posted modern day photos with his Canon EOS 200D Digital Rebel Xti.

“We are still learning details of what actually happened,” Valve Corporation spokesman Doug Lombardi said Thursday evening in an e-mail. “Reports suggest he has been arrested for a felony offense. As such we have suspended his employment until we know more.”

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