Games2U is a mobile franchise business that operates vans packed with video game consoles, renting them out for children's parties and other special occasions. It sounds like the perfect business for a child molester. According to authorities, Leonard R. Filipkowski of Lakeland, Florida thought so too.
The 44-year-old owner of the local Games2U franchise faces nine counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim under 16 years of age and 11 counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition in the presence of a child. He was arrested by the Polk County Sheriff's Office early this morning.
According to police Filipkowski used the company van to commit sexual acts with a 13-year-old and also admitted to having sexual relations with a 13 or 14-year old victim in his home.
During a press conference held today Polk Sheriff Grady Judd called Filipkowski, who had no previous criminal history, "our worst nightmare", adding "He has no criminal record, no history... and he has a van."
Games2U, which we've covered here in the past, was established in 2007 by a pair of brothers based out of Austin, Texas. Since then the company has expanded rapidly, with more than 140 franchises in 28 states. The final paragraph in the 'About Us' section of the company website reads: "We love what we do. And it shows in the way we run our business. We think you're going to love what we do even more."
It's a fine business concept. It's won various awards from entrepreneur and franchise-related magazines. I've been in a couple of their vehicles, and they really go out to make sure their customers have a memorable time. That just makes the thought of someone taking advantage of such a situation that much more disturbing.
Eventually we'll have to start requiring employees of businesses that cater to children and teens to take psyche evals and obtain a special license. I'm not so sure that's a bad idea.
Update: Earlier today I reached out to Games2U headquarters for comment on this story. What follows is a statement by company president and co-founder Stuart Pikoff.
"We are appalled and deeply disturbed to learn that an independently owned and operated Games2U franchisee has been arrested in Polk County Florida for allegedly assaulting minors. This is obviously a horrible situation, and our thoughts are with the victims and their families
"Our management has reached out to the Polk County Sherriff's Office, and we pledge our full cooperation while they continue their investigation. Further, we urge anyone with relevant information about this matter to immediately contact the authorities.
"As the largest company in our industry, with over four years of operations and more than 50,000 events, we have never encountered a situation like this one. Although the Polk County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that this individual had no criminal record, we will nevertheless continue to work with our franchisees to help ensure that parents, children, and all Game2U customers can be confident in the services our franchisees provide.
"We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials but will have no further comment while the investigation continues."