The 13-year-old Newton County girl believed that she was going to be a big star and that the cute 22-year-old New York photographer who was talking to her online was going to help her reach her dreams of becoming a model, all she had to do was send him some pictures. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The good-looking boy she believed she was talking to on various networking sites, who claimed to be looking for models for his new clothing line, was actually 61-year-old Martin Friedman of Woodbridge, Virginia.
According to Covington Police Detectives Daniel Seals and Paul Dailey, the girl’s parents came to the CPD thinking their daughter, who had a computer in her room, was perhaps talking inappropriately to a boyfriend online. After speaking with the girl, it turned out that things were much worse than her parents originally feared.
Over a period of time the girl spoke with a man known as “Starmaker Mitch” online. This was actually Friedman, who had various e-mails and who communicated with this girl, as well as possibly as many as 150 others, on sites such as MySpace, Tagged and Netlog. He was advertising, asking people who were interested in being models for his new pre-teen clothing line to contact him.
“Sites that kids know of but parents have probably never heard of,” said Seals.
The girl was asked to send pictures of herself and, over time, Friedman convinced her that he needed to see her in various states of undress in order to tell if she was the right girl for the modeling job.
Although detectives are unsure, it is a possibility that Friedman had been disseminating the pictures on the internet. Sadly, only time will tell. As of right now, they are sure that he was using her photographs for his own amusement.
“We believe there will be more pictures of other people found once the forensic team is done with his computer,” said Seals. “We found people he had been chatting with as far away as London and Canada. We have no idea how many victims there are out there.”
The initial complaint in Newton County was filed in February and, on May 26, at approximately 6 a.m., detectives Seals and Dailey, along with officers from the Virginia State Police, served a search warrant on Friedman’s residence. Friedman reportedly sat quietly and said nothing when confronted with the allegations.
He has been charged with multiple counts of possession of child pornography in Virginia, and with 19 counts of sexual exploitation of a child here in Newton County. Friedman is still incarcerated in Virginia but is awaiting extradition to Newton County.
According to Seals, Friedman was divorced and was the father of one child. He had lived alone for several years and was currently unemployed, his last job being that of a freelance writer.
“He was very actively involved in this activity,” Seals said. So active that detectives have roughly 300 pages of chat between the Covington girl and “Starmaker Mitch” to read through.
Detectives believe there is a possibility there are other Newton County victims, due to Friedman’s ability to navigate the popular sites with ease and to believably portray himself to be a young, successful, attractive man. No matter the e-mail or site he was on, he seemed to always use the moniker of “Starmaker Mitch” and to claim the same occupation. They are asking anyone who has been contacted by someone of this name online to contact them at (770) 385-2144.
“We very seldom get a victim to come forward in cases like this,” said CPD Chief Stacey Cotton. “It’s very rare and we are very lucky.”
And although victim statements are rare in cases of this kind, and the girl with undoubtedly help detectives in their case against and alleged predator, this cannot take away what happened to a naive young girl with dreams of fame and fortune.
“She really thought he was going to make her a big star,” said Seals. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve seen a lot, but those pictures he had her send him... If anybody saw them they wouldn’t forget them. They went way beyond her standing there naked.”