Crime & Courts

Millionaire giving flight lessons had sex with teen as plane was on autopilot, cops say

A man pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor.
A man pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor. Getty Images

A man living in South Carolina is facing years behind bars after pleading guilty to having a sexual relationship with a minor on multiple occasions, including once in his plane after he activated the autopilot, according to court records.

On Tuesday, Stephen Bradley Mell will be sentenced in federal court after being convicted on charges of engaging in interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct and receiving child pornography, the New York Daily News reported. The 53-year-old from Bedminster, New Jersey, who currently lives with his mother in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, while out on $1 million bond, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to the newspaper.

Called a millionaire, Mell has also pleaded guilty to state charges in New Jersey and is awaiting a July sentencing for a conviction on third-degree endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual relations with a female victim under the age of 16, the Bridgewater Courier News reported.

According to a federal indictment, Mell flew from New Jersey to Massachusetts “to have sex with the girl several times and took nude photos of the girl,” according to

The federal indictment said in 2017 Mell, president of a brokerage firm and a licensed pilot, was introduced to a then-15-year-old girl by her mother, who was getting flight lessons for the minor, per the New York Daily News.

Over the course of six months, the indictment said, Mell performed sex acts on the minor multiple times, engaged in sexual intercourse, took nude photos of the girl, sent her sexually graphic text messages, used social media to ask for pictures or videos of the minor “engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” bought her “an emergency contraceptive pill,” and later “begged” the child to get birth control,” according to the Bridgewater Courier News.

One of the incidents during that time detailed in the indictment occurred July 20, 2017, when they were flying on Mell’s private plane, and “he put the aircraft on autopilot and engaged in sexual acts with the girl,” reported.

In state court, Mell was charged with three acts of sexual penetration with a victim less than 16 years old, per WFMZ. He reached a plea agreement on those charges and is expected to serve a three-year prison sentence and register as a sex offender, according to

Information about what prompted an investigation was unavailable.

Mell has three children with his wife, who has filed for divorce, the Bridgewater Courier News reported.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.