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Savannah surgeon accused of sending explicit messages to undercover cop posing as minor

Dr. Mark Winchell
Dr. Mark Winchell(Chatham County Jail)
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2021 at 7:44 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A Savannah surgeon is expected to face charges in connection to a sting operation, targeting adults accused of contacting children online for sexual activity.

WTOC has confirmed Dr. Mark Winchell was arrested last week in Chatham County and will be transported to Lexington County, South Carolina this week to face the following charges: attempted dissemination of obscene material to a person under 18, criminal solicitation of a minor, and sexual exploitation of a minor.

Winchell was wanted on charges stemming from messages exchanged with law enforcement officers posing as minors on social media apps.

Lexington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Winchell is wanted in connection to a sting operation in which 17 other men were arrested.

Officers from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies worked together on the month-long operation.

“We, along with the Lexington Police Department and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, served as the host agencies for this operation,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said. “Officers pretended to be underage teenagers as the suspects messaged them through apps. Some even had phone conversations with officers. After the suspect asked to meet with ‘the child,’ detectives were staged at a predetermined meeting spot to arrest them.”

Most of the messages featured sexually explicit language and images, according to Koon.

“The intent of these suspects during these communications is clear,” Koon said. “They were trying to persuade, entice or coerce someone they reasonably believed to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity.”

According to Koon, no children were ever used or placed in danger during the operation.

“This operation is the result of strong relationships among law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels,” Koon said. “I’d like to thank Attorney General Alan Wilson for making members of his office available for this operation as part of his continued commitment to local law enforcement.”

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