A former CEO who put his private plane on autopilot to sexually abuse a teen girl he was ferrying from Cape Cod to New Jersey is behind bars after sex crime convictions in federal and state courts.
Stephen Bradley Mell, 53, showed up Tuesday to begin two overlapping prison sentences at the Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood Low in Pennsylvania, reports NJ.com.
In June, Mell pleaded guilty to one count of interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receipt of child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey.
A month earlier, Mell pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child via sexual conduct, according to Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Acting Prosecutor Michael Williams.
The federal conviction resulted in a seven-year prison sentence. The state conviction, which followed Mell’s interactions with the same underage girl, resulted in a three-year sentence to be served at the same time, according to the county prosecutor.
Mell formerly led the investment firm W.H. Mell Associates in Summit as its president and CEO, reports NJ.com.
He had been introduced in 2017 to the girl by her mother when the girl sought flight lessons, according to court documents cited by the Bridgewater Courier News.
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The federal complaint obtained by the outlet says Mell, who was 51 at the time, began communicating via text and SnapChat with the girl, then 15, and ultimately made sexual overtures toward her.
According to the complaint, he invited her to his Bedminster home and sexually abused her on July 5, 2017, and the next day he purchased an emergency contraceptive for her. On July 20, according to the complaint, Mell flew the teen in his plane to Barnstable, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod “for the purpose of engaging in illicit conduct, specifically, a sexual act with a person under the age of eighteen.”
On the flight back, Mell put the plane’s controls on autopilot to further sexually abuse the teen, according to the complaint.
The document states that Mell subsequently asked the girl to send him images of herself engaged in sexually explicit conduct through texts, SnapChat or FaceTime video.
He was arrested in June 2018 after investigation by the Hunterdon County prosecutor’s special victims unit discovered he’d engaged in sexual relations with a victim under age 16 in both Readington and Bedminster townships, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “From July 2017 through December 2017, Mell knowingly traveled in interstate commerce for the purpose of engaging in the production of child pornography and sexual acts with a minor who he knew to be less than 17 years of age. Mell also admitted knowingly receiving child pornography in interstate commerce during the same period.”
On top of his federal prison term, U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti sentenced Mell to five years of supervised release, fined him $40,000, and ordered him to pay restitution of $35,200 and a Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act assessment of $5,000.