A millionaire and former investment firm CEO, who once put his plane on autopilot to engage in sex acts with a teen girl on his private plane, has been sentenced to seven years in a federal prison.
Stephen Bradley Mell, 53, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in December to one count of interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct and one count of receipt of child pornography, according to The Bridgewater Courier News.
Mell, who goes by his middle name Bradley, was arrested in June 2018, after authorities discovered he’d been having an illicit relationship with a 15-year-old girl beginning in May 2017. The pair reportedly communicated through text messages and Snapchat, with Mell asking the teen whether she knew “how to perform oral sex.”
The relationship progressed when the following month he invited her to his New Jersey home, according to federal court records obtained by NJ.com.
Mell performed sex acts on the teen on July 5, 2017, purchasing her the emergency contraceptive pill just a day later, a federal complaint said.
He also flew her in his private 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 return flight, Mell reportedly put the plane in autopilot so they could engage in further sexual acts, the complaint said.
In addition to the physical activities, Mell asked the minor girl to send him explicit images of herself through text messages, SnapChat photos or FaceTime videos.
Mell and the teen had reportedly known each other in a “pre-existing” relationship before they began to communicate with each other privately.
“In fact, it was the minor’s mother who first introduced Mr. Mell to obtain flight lessons for the minor,” according to an earlier brief written in the case.
Mell could also receive additional time at the state level after pleading guilty to a child endangerment charge in Hunterdon County. He is slated to be sentenced on that charge on July 12.
The convictions are a massive fall from grace for the millionaire who was once a respected member of the community.
He formerly served as president and chief executive of W.H. Mell Associates, an investment firm specializing in the municipal bond market and was also an active volunteer in the community, coaching a hockey team at the Essex Hunt Club for more than a decade and serving on the board at Westminster School, a preparatory school in Connecticut where his son attended.
He also served on the board of the Far Hills Day School, where he received the “Unsung Hero Award” in 2017.
While the father of three once lived in a lavish 7,768-square foot mansion in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Bedminster, he had been living with his mother in South Carolina at the time of the sentencing, according to The State.
His attorney claimed his fall from grace had been triggered by survivor’s guilt after two friends died in a helicopter he had owned, according to documents obtained by The Bridgewater Courier News. Mell was supposed to have been on the helicopter for a golfing trip but had to back out at the last minute and sent a friend in his place—both people on the helicopter died when it crashed.
“It was in therapy that Mr. Mell was able to see how much he was doing for so many people and how the burden of his responsibility to so many people was taking its toll on him emotionally,” a brief advocating for his release on bail said.
In addition to the federal prison sentence, Mell will also serve five years of supervised release, was fined $40,000, and has been ordered to pay $35,200 in restitution.
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