A Cleveland area man named in published news media reports as a former elementary school principal was arrested Tuesday in connection with a child sex sting conducted by the Chattanooga Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mark Avery Pickel, 51, was charged with the "transportation of child pornography in interstate commerce, interstate travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor, and coercion and enticement of a minor," according to an affidavit filed Wednesday by FBI special agent Samuel Moore.
He remains incarcerated and will be arraigned on Friday, Feb. 28.
According to published reports, “Prosecutor James Brooks said on Feb. 3 an undercover online officer with the Chattanooga Police Department was alerted that Pickel was operating on the Kik social network platform in a group called ‘Loving Kids.'"
The local office of the FBI was immediately notified.
The CPD agent began corresponding with Pickel while leading him to believe she was the mother of an infant daughter, according to reports.
The agent said Pickel stated "he lived very near Chattanooga," the affidavit cited.
The prosecutor said Pickel, through his online name, said, "Just love little girls." In addition, "he asked the agent if she played (had sexual contact) with the infant child and when she planned to start."
Pickel also reportedly said he had "watched some pretty good cp (child pornography)."
According to the affidavit, which was filed Wednesday, Pickel is alleged to have posted that "... he had distributed ’10-20 pics and vids today’ and asked why she did not also distribute child pornography.’”
Pickel asked if the agent “was a cop or associated with law enforcement.”
The agent replied that “she” was not and “said she could understand why he ‘might not want to meet me and Lucy.’"
The affidavit also stated Pickel replied, "I want nothing more, just don't want to be ambushed. My kids need their daddy even if he does have different desires."
He said he "typically uses mobile phones to engage in this activity rather than computers because it made him feel safer."
“The prosecutor said Pickel sent a photo of himself to the undercover agent, and it was arranged that they would meet on Tuesday ‘in a lodging facility in Northern Georgia,'" according to the affidavit.
Pickel arrived at 11:30 a.m. and "was immediately arrested by waiting agents," the affidavit stated.
Published media reports indicate that Pickel was assistant principal at Polk County High School from July 2004 to June 2008, and a principal at City Park Elementary School in Athens from 2009 to 2011. He was principal of Vonore Elementary from July 2013 to June 2014, reports stated.
Published reports also indicate he has worked as a funeral director at funeral homes in Cleveland."