Cobb deputy arrested, charged with sexual exploitation of a child

Cobb County Deputy Peter Bilardello was arrested Thursday night, according to the sheriff's office.

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Cobb County Deputy Peter Bilardello was arrested Thursday night, according to the sheriff's office.

A Cobb County sheriff’s deputy is accused of chatting about performing sexual acts with children on a social media website, according to investigators.

Late Thursday, Cobb police arrested Peter Bilardello, 50, at his Marietta home and booked him into the county jail. He was charged with two felonies: sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of child porn, his arrest warrant states.

“The chats also show that said accused sent photos to other users he was talking to, which photos displayed prepubescent children involved in sexual acts with adults,” according to the warrant.

Investigators got a tip about child sexual abuse material being shared on a MeWe account in 2019, Bilardello’s warrant states. The phone number associated with the social media account was linked to Bilardello, according to police.

On Wednesday, a Cobb officer sent a search warrant request to MeWe, the warrant states. Later that day, the officer received copies of conversations Bilardello allegedly had online.

A spokesman for MeWe said the social network reported Bilardello’s alleged crimes to investigators and removed him from the platform.

Then on Thursday, investigators executed a search warrant at Bilardello’s home. There, the deputy denied ever having sexual contact with a child, his warrant states.

“During that time said accused admitted to owning the MeWe account and said that he was the only one who controlled it,” the warrant states. “Said accused also admitted to chatting about sexual acts with children, but stated it was fantasy and that he was never hands-on with a child, nor had he uploaded the images.”

Bilardello began working at the Cobb sheriff’s office in 2005, according to the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council, also known as POST. He has no prior discipline history.

Cobb Sheriff Craig Owens addressed the arrest in an emailed statement late Thursday.

“Upon receiving notification of the arrest warrant, Sheriff Owens immediately placed Bilardello on unpaid administrative leave and confiscated his badge, ID and county-issued weapons,” the sheriff’s office said.

While the police department investigates the alleged crimes, Owens said he also requested that his office’s internal affairs division conduct an investigation.

Bilardello was released late Thursday on $100,000 bond, jail records show.

— AJC data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.