NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A Middlesex County Sheriff's Officer has been charged with serious sex crimes by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, according to government records.
Joshua Padilla, a 33-year-old resident of Eatontown, joined the Middlesex County payroll in 2015, before graduating from the Monmouth County Police Academy.
He earned an annual salary of $50,708 last year, plus at least $9,500 in overtime pay, according to public records.
On January 31, Padilla was charged with seven criminal counts, according to documents available on the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Web Portal.
Among the more serious offenses is the charge of violating section B2 of Title 18, Section 6312, which states: "Any person who knowingly photographs, videotapes, depicts on computer or films a child under the age of 18 years engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in the simulation of such an act commits an offense."
The other six charges out of Upper Mount Bethel Township in Northampton County all relate to child pornography, unlawful contact with minors, and using a "communications facility" to commit a felony.
Sheriff Mildred Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the officer's status. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office also did not immediately respond to our inquiries.
If Officer Padilla is suspended from duty, it's likely he won't be the only officer suspended. As we reported, at least one other officer—a former Milltown Borough Councilman—has been suspended since late 2015.
It's not the first time a Middlesex County official has been tripped up by criminal charges stemming from liasons with ostensibly underage persons in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Alan Haag served as an elected Freeholder for Middlesex County before taking on the position of Roads Supervisor in 1998.
Haag's name appears on the plaque at the entrance to the County Administration Building, and by virtue of his time as Freeholder Director, his photo still hangs in the Freeholder Meeting Room.
But in 2003, Haag drove his county-owned sport utility vehicle to Pennsylvania, and brought with him a phony badge that declared he was the "county corrections superintendent."
Haag admitted he took the trip intending to have sex with a woman and her two daughters, ages 7 and 10, who he thought he had communicated with online.
The arrangements had actually been made with an agent working in the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Task Force on Internet Crimes Against Children.
Haag resigned his position, pleaded guilty to attempted rape, was sentenced to spend 45 consecutive weekends in a Pennsylvania prison. He was also sentenced to five years probation by Judge Frederick DeVesa of the Middlesex County Superior Court because he had used a county-owned computer to arrange the meeting.
Michael Abode, the warden of the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center, also resigned after it became apparent he was the one who had provided Haag with the phony badge.
The limited documents available online in Officer Padilla's case indicate no date of arrest. The charges were all filed on January 31 of this year, but the date of the offenses is listed as April 1, 2018.
The arresting officer, special agent Daniel Block, has been previously cited in media reports for his involvement in a similar sting that resulted in a conviction against the former Chief of Police in Leechburg, Pennsylvania.
Over the past year, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has gained national notoriety for his office's work to investigate child abuse among priests in the Catholic Church, sparking similar efforts on the part of attorneys general in other states.