Deputy arrested for cyberstalking
Defendant allegedly met victim while playing Minecraft video game online
A Matagorda County Sheriff’s deputy has been charged in federal court in Worcester, Mass. for cyperstalking a minor female living in Worcester County.
Pasquale T. Salas, 25, a/k/a Gino, a deputy sheriff with the Matagorda County Sheriff’s Office, was arrested in Bay City, Wednesday, July 31. He was scheduled to appear in federal court in the Southern District of Texas Thursday, Aug. 1 and will appear in federal court in Worcester at a later date.
Matagorda County Sheriff Skipper Osborne held a press conference at the sheriff’s office Thursday, Aug 1 on this matter.
“We as a department myself, we had no idea. He had been employed with us for three and a half years and been a great deputy, had nothing in his record, no discipline reports, nothing, he was just an outstanding deputy,” said Osborne.
“They came in and made the arrest, it was actually the FBI from Boston that has the case on him and they had two or three FBIs from Texas City, who were also involved,” Osborne continued.
“All I can tell you is he’s was escorted out of here, going into Galveston County Jail and from there this morning (Thursday, Aug 1), he was supposed to be in Houston in front of a federal judge and get magistrated before noon today, then he was going to be transported to Boston,” said Osborne.
“We cooperated with the FBI in every way possible because we’re not going to stand in any way for a deputy that breaks the law. He is no better than anybody else; we’re here to enforce law, not to break law,” said Osborne.
According to the charging document, 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.
“He was not on our computer, he was not sitting in an office on one of our computers, our patrol does not have access to the Internet,” Osborne mentioned.
“As I said, this is a shock to our department and a very bad shock for me because I really thought the world of this boy, he was a young kid, 26 years old and a good deputy. We can kind of control them while they’re here, but when they go home and they’re off duty, I have really no control over it,” said Osborne.
Beginning as early as 2016, it is alleged that Salas intimidated the victim into maintaining contact with him and sending additional sexually explicit material by threatening that he would publish the minor’s sexually explicit images and videos to her family and her friends. As recently as 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.
“All this happened without our knowledge. Two young girls went to the sheriff’s department in Boston and made the complaint and it went to the Boston FBI, they worked on his case for about three or four months and like I said, we knew nothing about it, it was all handled out of Boston,” said Osborne.
“It was a surprise to the whole department, we were all very shocked. For me, this is one bad thing about computers, (Salas’) parents knew nothing about it, it was a shock to all of us,” continued Osborne.
The charge of cyberstalking carries 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.
“In addition to the charge of stalking as I told you, there’ll probably be other charges at a later date. What I understand about Massachusetts, once they get arrested they’ve got to go in front of a grand jury within 30 days. So he’ll be there and go in front of a grand jury within 30 days and there’s going to be additional charges at that time,” Osborne said.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Douglas Police Chief Nick Miglionico made the announcement. Valuable assistance was provided by 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/.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.