BOSTON – A law enforcement officer from Texas was sentenced today in federal court in Worcester for 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, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman to 220 months in prison and five years of supervised release. In May 2020, Salas pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of cyberstalking.
“The defendant was an online predator disguised in a law enforcement uniform,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “He used the internet to gain the trust of vulnerable children and then turned around and exploited their innocence and played on their fears. This sentence is a warning to others, but it is also intended to stop this defendant, for the long term, from further victimizing children. We will always prioritize, and aggressively pursue, cases involving online predators.”
“Child predators often wear many disturbing disguises in our communities, and Pasquale Salas is no exception. As a deputy sheriff, he betrayed his oath and abused the trust that was placed in him. Instead of protecting children, he exploited children for his own sexual gratification. He is both a danger and a disgrace, and now, thanks to the courage of the victims who came forward in this case, and the hard work of our law enforcement partners, he’s been taken off the street so he can no longer harm anyone else,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.
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 the victim was 12 until the time she was 16, Salas 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 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 the victim until the time of his arrest.
U.S. Attorney Lelling and Boston FBI SAC Bonavolonta 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 prosecuted 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/.