Wednesday 19 September 2018

Irish tennis coach charged with attempted sexual assault of girl (14) in US

Mark O'Neill with an address in Allentown, Pennsylvania was arrested after allegedly grooming a 14-year-old girl for sex. Photo: Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro
Mark O'Neill with an address in Allentown, Pennsylvania was arrested after allegedly grooming a 14-year-old girl for sex. Photo: Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro

Sasha Brady

A 36-year-old Irish tennis coach living in the US has been charged after he allegedly attempted to solicit sex from an underage girl.

Mark O'Neill (36) was arrested after attempting to meet an undercover police officer who had been posing online as a 14-year-old girl.

O'Neill, from Dublin, Ireland, was a top ranked junior Irish tennis player before moving to the US.

He had been employed as a racquetball and tennis coach to junior players, including female teen players, at Hillcrest Racquet Club in Reading, Pennsylvania.

In March, charges were brought against O'Neill for unlawful contact with a minor, attempted statutory sexual assault and criminal use of a communication facility.

“This case is disturbing because the defendant regularly coaches young women the same age as the one he attempted to inappropriately proposition,” Attorney General Shapiro said in a statement.

“Our agents and prosecutors are working relentlessly to get every perpetrator out of our communities and to keep Pennsylvania’s children safe.”

The charges are a result of an online investigation where O’Neill was in communication with an undercover agent posing as a minor online over the course of three months.

After it was made apparent she was a 14-year-old, O’Neill continued to ask for her address and solicited the child for unlawful sexual contact.

On March 24, 2018, O’Neill made plans to meet the agent and was spotted at the pre-arranged meeting location. Agents from the Office of Attorney General took him into custody without incident.

“My office will prosecute anyone that tries to prey on children to the fullest extent of the law,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Thanks to strong law enforcement collaboration between Bethlehem City Police Department, the Homeland Security Investigations and my office, we were able to take one more child predator off our the streets.”

O'Neill's bail was set at $500,000 (€604,291).

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