MAYS LANDING- A former Egg Harbor Township High School teacher’s aide and dive coach has pleaded guilty in connection to the Distribution of Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Images through the multimedia messaging service Snapchat, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announced.
On February 19, 2020, Mark Balesteri, 30, pleaded guilty before the Honorable Sarah Beth Johnson, J.S.C. to second degree Endangering for Distributing Sexual Exploitative Child Images to other users on a multi-media messaging service, Snapchat. Balesteri admitted during his plea to using his cell phone and through his Snapchat username and account of sending child images and or videos of children under the age of 18 for sexual exploitation, more specifically images of young females to other users.
Because at the time of the offenses committed, Balesteri was employed by the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education as a substitute teacher and a dive coach with Egg Harbor Township High School, Balesteri was ordered to forfeit his present public employment and any future public employment in this State.
Balesteri received in exchange for the second degree charges, 5 years in New Jersey State Prison with a 5 years New Jersey State Prison period of parole ineligibility. He is also subject to Megan’s Law, an Avenel Evaluation, Parole Supervision for Life and to forfeit any contraband on his digital devices. His sentencing is currently scheduled for April 3, 2020. Assistant Prosecutor Erika Halayko represents the State in this matter.
On February 14, 2019, following an investigation lasting several months, Mark Balesteri, Jr., 29, of Egg Harbor Township was arrested following a several months-long investigation into his online activity and following the execution of a knock-and-announce search warrant on a residence in Egg Harbor Township on the morning of February 14, 2019.
The warrant was executed by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office with the assistance of officers and detectives from the Egg Harbor Township Police Department and New Jersey State Police. Balesteri was arrested and processed without incident and transported to the Atlantic County Justice Facility.
Egg Harbor Township Municipal Court Judge Marc Nehmad authorized the following charges against Mark Balesteri, Jr.:
- 2C:24-4b(5)(a)(i) – Endangering the Welfare of Children – Distribution of Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Images (Second Degree)
- 2C:24-4b(5)(a)(ii) – Endangering the Welfare of Children – Possession of Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Images with the Intent to Distribute (Second Degree)
- 2C:24-4b(5)(b)(ii) – Endangering the Welfare of Children – Possession of Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Images (Second Degree)
This investigation was initiated based upon information received by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office through the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC). The ICAC Task Force helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and Internet crimes against children. The Task Force is coordinated on the national level by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and on the State level by the New Jersey State Police.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.