HARRISBURG—Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that Joshua Padilla, a former sheriff’s deputy from New Jersey, has pleaded guilty to seeking sexual contact with an undercover law enforcement agent who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.
“Padilla’s crimes betray the hard work of the men and women in law enforcement, and undermine the trust placed in him by his community,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Our agents work tirelessly to investigate child sexual predators and get them off the streets in Pennsylvania. We have zero tolerance in my office for child predators – wherever we find them. Enforcing the law does not put you above the law.”
In 2019, agents with the Attorney General’s Child Predator Section received information from the Pennsylvania State Police that an adult man – later identified as Padilla – had unlawful sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl in Northampton County, sometime in April or May 2018. Padilla recorded the encounter with his cell phone, and uploaded the video depicting sex acts online, where it was viewed and shared by other adults. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has indicted the defendant with offenses related to the child pornography he produced and thereafter disseminated. The defendant’s charges in the federal case are pending.
In the course of their investigation, agents with the Attorney General’s Child Predator Section had contact with the defendant, via social media and text messaging. An undercover agent told Padilla that he was communicating with a 14-year-old child. The defendant said he wanted to meet with the purported child, used sexually explicit language, sent the agent two pictures of his genitals, and asked for photos of the purported 14-year-old girl.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Michelle Laucella. The investigation was conducted in collaboration with the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office (New Jersey).
Sentencing was deferred so that a sexually violent predator assessment could be conducted.
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