MAYS LANDING- An Egg Harbor Township High School teacher’s aide and swimming coach was arrested and charged in connection with an investigation into the Distribution of Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation Images through the multimedia messaging service Snapchat, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner announced.
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.
“Sadly, the transmission of child pornography is a pervasive problem throughout our community that does not always receive enough attention. Child predators lurk behind their computer screens and exploit defenseless children with the stroke of a keyboard. These predators occupy many positions of trust from teachers and coaches to many other professions. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office remains vigilant in rooting them out,” said Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner.
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. The case is being investigated by ACPO Detective Deborah Specht and prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Dave Ruffenach.
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.
***These charges are merely an accusation and not proof of guilt. In all criminal cases, a charged defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. ***
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.