October 5, 2021 – Dr. Mark Anthony Winchell of Savannah has spent the past weekend in the Chatham County Jail, as an “out of state hold,” requested by the sheriff of Lexington County, SC, on alleged charges related to the solicitation of a minor for sex.
Winchell has waived extradition and local Chatham jail personnel are “waiting for them to come pick him up,” according to Sheriff John Wilcher. “They have 7 to 10 days once he waives extradition.”
Lexington County, SC has been involved in a significant sting operation targeting online predator during September. Last week, Sheriff Jay Koon of Lexington County announced that more than a dozen law enforcement agencies had worked together on a month-long operation targeting adults accused of contacting children online for sexual activity. Seventeen men have been arrested as part of the operation. And, “another man is wanted on charges stemming from messages exchanged with law enforcement officers posing as minors on social media apps,” according to the department’s press release.
“We, along with the Lexington Police Department and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, served as the host agencies for this operation,” said Koon. “Officers pretended to be underage teenagers as the suspects messaged them through apps. Some even had phone conversations with officers. After the suspect asked to meet with ‘the child,’ detectives were staged at a predetermined meeting spot to arrest them.”
Most of the messages featured sexually explicit language and images, according to Koon.
“The intent of these suspects during these communications is clear,” Koon said. “They were trying to persuade, entice or coerce someone they reasonably believed to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity.” No children were ever used or placed in danger during the operation, according to Koon.
“This operation is the result of strong relationships among law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels,” he added. “I’d like to thank Attorney General Alan Wilson for making members of his office available for this operation as part of his continued commitment to local law enforcement.”
As members of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Cayce Department of Public Safety, the Mount Pleasant Police Department, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Aiken Department of Public Safety also participated in the operation, according to Koon.
Dr. Winchell, an Orthopedist, is the owner of Savannah Bone and Joint, an active surgery practice located in Savannah on McAuley Dr. He is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Memorial Health University Medical Center and St. Joseph's Hospital-Savannah, and received his medical degree from St Louis University School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.
According to the practice’s office manager, “patients are just being pushed back. No other doctor is filling in right now. That’s all we know,” she said.
In 2010, Dr. Winchell received business news attention as the first to use groundbreaking technology for knee replacements in the Savannah area.
A spokesperson for St. Joseph's Candler released the following statement:
"Dr. Mark A. Winchell is an independent practitioner who is a member of the Medical Staff at our hospitals. Medical Staff leadership is aware of the matter and takes this very seriously. While they are unable to provide further comment, as with any matter of this nature under investigation, any and all necessary action will be taken in accordance with the governing documents of the Medical Staff."