Feud between Lady's Island business owners results in arrest on sex charge

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comMarch 8, 2012 

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A feud between two Lady's Island business owners resulted in one of them being arrested last week and charged with having hundreds of images of underage girls, authorities say.

David Paul Maschka, 61, was arrested Feb. 28 and charged with one count of misdemeanor harassment and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor based upon two of those photographs, which appear to show 13- to 14-year-old girls engaged in sexual activity, according to an arrest warrant.

The images were discovered almost by accident, according to a 100-page Beaufort County Sheriff's Office incident report released Thursday. It detailed an investigation spurred by allegations of electronic harassment.

Deputies were contacted by Joseph and Susan Morlino, owners of the Island Wellness Shoppe on Sea Island Parkway, who were engaged in a yearlong feud with Maschka and his wife, who operated a fitness center next door, the report said.

The two businesses shared a wall, and the Morlinos often complained that the Maschkas, who also own an area pest control business, played their music too loud. Their complaints resulted in Maschka being cited by the Sheriff's Office for a noise violation in March 2011. The Morlinos claimed that in retaliation, Maschka signed them up to receive hundreds of unwanted emails and electronic newsletters, some of which were sexually explicit, the report said.

At one point, the couple was receiving 300 to 900 emails a day, they told deputies.

Some of the unsolicited emails contained an IP address that authorities tracked to Maschka's home on Dataw Island, the report said.

In late January, deputies seized two cellphones, an iPad, a printer and two computers, one of which Maschka later admitted was the one he used to send the harassing emails, according to authorities.

A Sheriff's Office computer analyst searched that computer's hard drive last month and found 200 photos that depicted female children between 6 to 15 years of age in "various stage of dress and undress ... posed in sexually provocative poses that were clearly meant to be erotic in nature," the report said.

Two of those images depicted girls engaged in sexual activity, the report said.

Maschka was arrested and told investigators that he downloaded the photos because he was "obsessive-compulsive and bipolar, which caused him to make strange and bizarre decisions," the report said.

Maschka also told investigators he has a physical attraction to children but has never acted on that attraction, according to the report.

Attempts Thursday to reach the Morlinos, Maschka and his attorney, Jim Moss of Beaufort, were unsuccessful.

Maschka was released from the Beaufort County Detention on Feb. 29 after posting bond, according to the Beaufort County Detention Center log. Information on the amount of Maschka's bond was unavailable Thursday.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

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