By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
A high-ranking enlisted military police officer at Cannon Air Force Base was charged Friday with attempting to entice an 11-year-old girl over the Internet into having sexual relations with him, according to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office.
The arrest comes after a lengthy investigation by state police and Air Force investigators, according to a press release from District Attorney Matt Chandler.
Mark Swartz, 42, became a suspect after an Artesia woman told police he had e-mailed her photos of two 13-year-old girls he claimed to have had sexual relations with at a Clovis hotel, the release said.
The woman gave police a collection of explicit e-mails and photographs Swartz had sent her, Chandler said.
In March when Swartz began inquiring about an 11-year-old girl he believed was staying with the woman, a state police officer posed as the child and engaged him in an online relationship, the release said.
Swartz attempted to entice the police officer to go with him to a hotel and perform sexual acts, sending explicit e-mails, photos of himself and offering bribes, the release said.
A master sergeant with Cannon Security Forces, Swartz was arrested after search warrants were executed on his home and vehicles Friday night. Swartz is not cooperating with the investigation and has invoked his right to an attorney, Chandler reported.
Charged with two counts of criminal enticement of a child, Swartz is being held at the Curry County Adult Detention Center on a $10,000 cash only bond.
If convicted, Swartz faces up to two years in prison, Chandler said.
The two girls in the photographs Swartz claimed to have had relations with may have been part of a fabricated story, Chandler said. Police are investigating to determine if they were victims, Chandler said.
Chandler said the investigation is ongoing and more charges may result.
“Online predators are real and online predators are more common than the public may believe,” Chandler said.
Investigations of Internet-based crime against children are becoming more common, Chandler said.
Swartz may also face military charges, according to Capt. Rebecca Garcia, chief of public affairs at Cannon. Garcia said the military has the option to pursue a federal case against service members charged with crimes in civilian courts.
The military will only provide Swartz legal representation in the event he faces a court-martial, she said.
Garcia was unable to provide information regarding Swartz’s standing with the military, citing the newness of the case coming to her office’s attention.
“At this point, the behavior he’s charged with of course would never be tolerated by the Air Force, but he hasn’t been found guilty,” Garcia said.
“It is of course something we are going to investigate further. (Enticement), that’s a pretty serious charge and that’s not something the Air Force would feel positive about.”