Former south Texas police officer sentenced to 10 years for setting up hidden camera to capture video of a minor female

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A former south Texas police officer man will spend the next 10 years behind bars for possessing child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

ICE’s HSI Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Task Force conducted the investigation with assistance from the Primera Police Department (PPP), Texas Rangers and the Cameron County District Attorney.

Joel Alex Sandate, 32, of Los Fresnos, Texas, was sentenced Oct. 7 in federal court to 120 months in federal prison. His sentence is to be followed immediately followed by 20 years of supervised release. He will also 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. At the hearing, the judge heard additional information including a victim impact statement 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.

According to court documents, the investigation revealed that from Sept. 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 has been and will remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ana C. Cano and Jose A. Esquivel Jr., of the Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission set. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse, and help make the internet a safer place for children.

HSI takes a victim-centered approach to child exploitation investigations by working to identify, rescue and stabilize victims. HSI works in partnership with NCMEC, ICAC partners, and other federal, state, and local agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to NCMEC’s toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.