Authorities say a detective with the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office was found with photos of children being sexually abused in a search Wednesday.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office said the images were found as agents searched devices belonging to Deputy Robert Jesse Strand, 39, of Bernalillo. He was detained hours later and charged with criminal solicitation for possession of visual medium of sexual exploitation.
It is unclear if Strand has an attorney.
“All children deserve to be safe in our community, and we will intervene to mitigate child exploitation in New Mexico,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a news release.
Authorities had traced the downloaded images to Strand’s personal phone by June 2021 but did not execute search warrants until this week.
AG spokeswoman Jerri Mares said once agents learned Strand was law enforcement, the case required third-party search warrants and multi-agency operational planning.
“This case is still an active investigation,” she said.
SCSO Chief Deputy Allen Mills said Strand has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation by the Sheriff’s Office Professional Standards Unit. Strand has been with the department since 2014 and had just made detective.
“I am disturbed by the troubling allegations” Sandoval County Sheriff Jesse James Casaus said in a statement. “I have instructed my staff to fully (cooperate) with ICAC investigators regarding the allegations. I do not tolerate criminal or unethical behavior.”
Court records show Strand has been charged with DWI twice since 2006. The second case, filed in 2012, was dismissed by prosecutors.
According to an affidavit filed in Magistrate Court:
Between February and April 2021, the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received several tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that someone in New Mexico was downloading child sex abuse material.
In all, 92 images or GIFs were received that depicted children less than a year old and up to 13 years old being sexually abused by adults. The downloads were traced to the personal phone of Strand by June 2021.
Months later, on March 18, agents obtained a search warrant on Strand’s phone history, finding the same files had been downloaded. On Wednesday agents executed a search warrant on Strand’s home.
Strand told agents he viewed the child sex abuse material but then deleted them from his phone. Agents found a GIF of a girl between 6 and 10 being sexually abused by a man and photos of Strand having intercourse with a computer-generated pre-teen girl.