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Press Release

Former police officer sentenced for using hidden camera to obtain child pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A 32-year-old former officer with the Primera Police Department (PPD) has been ordered to federal prison for possessing child pornography, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Joel Alex Sandate pleaded guilty April 15.

Today, U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. ordered him to serve a 120-month sentence. At the hearing, the court also heard additional information today including the victim impact statement from the victim and her mother. Sandate was further ordered to pay $4,320 in restitution to the known victim and ordered an additional $10,000 special assessment. Sandate will also serve 20 years on supervised release following completion of his prison term, during which time he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender. 

The investigation revealed that from September 2019 to March 2020, Sandate had installed hidden cameras to capture recordings of a minor female. He saved the recorded videos onto various computer media devices such as his cellphone, a sim card and a USB drive.

Another PPD officer had discovered the images and reported it to authorities.

Sandate will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations - Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Task Force conducted the investigation with the assistance of PPD, Texas Rangers and the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ana C. Cano and Jose A. Esquivel Jr. prosecuted the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads PSC, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources tab on that page.

Updated October 7, 2021

Project Safe Childhood