SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A local orthopedic surgeon has been arrested in connection to a South Carolina operation targeting adults accused of contacting children online for sexual activity.
Dr. Mark Winchell, of Savannah, was taken into custody by the Thunderbolt Police Department and has since been extradited to the Lexington County Detention Center in South Carolina.
Winchell is listed as a specialist at Savannah Bone and Joint, an orthopedic care office in the Hostess City.
Officials tell WSAV News 3 Winchell faces charges of attempted dissemination of obscene material to a person under 18, criminal solicitation of a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor.
According to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, Winchell is one of more than a dozen men arrested in the operation targeting online predators. During the investigation, officers pretended to be underage teenagers as the suspects messaged them through social media apps or had phone conversations.
“After the suspect asked to meet with ‘the child,’ detectives were staged at a predetermined meeting spot to arrest them,” stated Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon.
“The intent of these suspects during these communications is clear,” Koon continued. “They were trying to persuade, entice or coerce someone they reasonably believed to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity.”
The sheriff said most of the messages featured “sexually explicit language and images.” Children were never used or placed in danger during the investigation, he added.