Texas Deputy Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Sexual Exploitation of a Child and Cyberstalking
Defendant faces 15-year mandatory minimum sentence
BOSTON – A law enforcement officer from Texas pleaded guilty today in federal court in Worcester to sexual exploitation of a minor and cyberstalking charges.
Pasquale T. Salas, 26, a/k/a Gino, a former deputy sheriff with the Matagorda County Sheriff’s Office, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of cyberstalking. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for Sept. 3, 2020.
Salas met the victim through an online video game website in 2014, when the minor was 12 years old. Salas and the girl communicated on a private chat room and then moved those communications to various other platforms, including text messaging, Skype and Snapchat. Salas repeatedly solicited the minor to transmit sexually explicit images and videos of herself.
Beginning as early as 2016, Salas intimidated the victim into maintaining contact with him and sending additional sexually explicit material by threatening that he would send the minor’s sexually explicit images and videos to her family and her friends. In May 2019, when the victim attempted to terminate contact with Salas, he repeatedly sent threatening communications to the victim, using web-based applications to disguise the source of the communications.
At the time of his arrest, Salas’ smartphone was seized by investigators and found to contain at least one video, sent via social media, of the minor performing sexually explicit acts that Salas had coerced her to perform.
Salas admitted to contacting a second Massachusetts minor through the same website. From the time she was 12 until the time she was 16, he coerced her into remaining in contact with him and solicited sexually explicit images from her. Salas forced her to disclose her social media credentials so that he could track her activities and view her photographs. Salas sent pictures of himself inside a police car and with a gun and told the second victim that he had law enforcement friends in Massachusetts who would follow her and that no one would believe her if she reported what he had done. Salas was in contact with her until the time of his arrest.
Members of the public who have questions, concerns, or information about this case should contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 617-748-3274.
The charge of sexual exploitation of a minor provides for mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and up to 30 in prison, a minimum of five years and up to life of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of cyberstalking provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by Police Departments in Worcester County; the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Houston Field Office; the Matagorda (Texas) County Sheriff’s Office; and the Worcester Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Noto from Lelling’s Worcester Branch Office is prosecuting the case.
The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.