BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A 32-year-old former officer with the Primera Police Department (PPD) has admitted to possessing child pornography, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Joel Alex Sandate pleaded guilty today.
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.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. accepted the plea today and set sentencing for July 20. At that time, Sandate faces up to 10 years in federal prison as well as a $250,000 fine.
He has been and will remain in custody pending sentencing.
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.