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Va. man charged in porn case
Man accused of exploiting teenage Covington child

COVINGTON - Following a three-month investigation, Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton held a press conference Friday afternoon to announce the arrest of a Virginia man on charges of sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old Covington child.

Martin Friedman, 61, of 4406 Worchester Drive, Apt. 13, Woodbridge, Va., is awaiting extradition to the Newton County Detention Center to face 19 counts of sexual exploitation of a child.

Cotton appealed to the metro-Atlanta community during the press conference to contact CPD Detective Daniel Seals (770-385-2144) or go to covingtonpolice.com if anyone believes they've had contact through the Internet with a man known as "Starmaker Mitch."

"We've seen approximately 150 (e-mail) addresses that he was contacting. We have no idea where these people are. This guy's out of Virginia. These people could be from anywhere around the country," Cotton said. "Our main concern, obviously, is there could be some victims around the metro Atlanta area and that's why we're doing the press conference today. We felt like as a public service, we need to get this information out and let everybody know if you had contact with a guy who uses the online name of 'Starmaker Mitch,' you are probably a victim of this, too. He's not who he's purporting himself to be. Please contact authorities."

Seals explained that the suspect used small, indistinct photos of young men to entice young girls to chat with him.

"This picture you see in front of you today is not what they (teenage victims) see," Seals said pointing to the mug shot of Friedman. "They see an 18- to 21-year-old male. He's hip. He's good-looking ... and the chat sites he's on are tailored as if a young man had done them. That's the kind of guy the girls think they're speaking to."

Seals said his investigation had revealed that Friedman was allegedly telling his victims that he was going to make them famous.

"He would approach them and say I'm a famous photographer in New York and I've got a new clothing line for preteens. I'm looking for models. Are you interested? And it went from there," he said.

Seals said he actually stumbled onto the case when the parents of a 13-year-old Covington girl brought her into CPD headquarters concerning another matter.

"The parents believed she may have been speaking a little inappropriately to a boyfriend in a neighboring city and that's what they came to me with," he said. "During the interview and investigation, sitting down with the girl and her parents, we came upon the photos. I was quite surprised when I saw them, and we went a little deeper into the investigation and came upon the chat logs which laid it all out."

Seals said there were 300 pages detailing chats between the victim and "Starmaker Mitch," and although the count to date is 19 pornographic photos, he expects to find more.

"He was actually ... directing her on what pictures to take of herself and send them to him," he said. "In the chats they talk about sending more pictures that I don't have and talk about sending video that I don't have. My victim literally thought she was going to be a star in New York."

Seals said Friedman had a 250-gig hard drive attached to an 80-gig computer and "everything was full. The thing about most of these guys is they are hoarders. They can't get rid of it."

Seals said the photo exchange went on over a long period of time with the suspect allegedly suggesting that the victim take off one item of clothing at a time and take photos of herself so that he could accurately assess her body type.

"I have a lot more photos, but only photos that meet the pornography standard in Georgia can be counted," he said. "Unfortunately, it's not illegal to have photos of a young girl in underwear."

Seals explained that the law calls for "prohibited areas" to be exposed such as the female chest or genitalia.

"It's difficult for us because sometimes we see photos of young children in various levels of being unclothed and we can't charge someone because that's considered child erotica, which is a different thing," he said.

The Virginia State Police assisted Seals in serving the search warrant and are doing a forensic search of Friedman's computer. They will investigate the chats involving other victims.

Seals warned that Friedman was allegedly able to contact his victims by going onto sites that most parents have never heard of.

"These are sites your kids know," he said, ticking off on his fingers social networking sites like Tagged, Netlog and, of course, the popular MySpace.

"His pages are all geared for teens and preteens. You'd see mostly girls chatting with each other, and then all of a sudden you get this man who says he's from New York and he's going to make you a star," Seals said.

The suspect is a divorced father of one child. He was last known to work as a freelancer for a newspaper but is believed to be out of work at this time, Seals said. He does not have a prior criminal record.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.