A Texas sheriff's deputy on Monday was charged with "super aggravated sexual assault" of a 4-year-old girl after it was found that the child's mother was threatened with deportation if she didn't stay silent about the abuse, according to NBC News.
The sheriff said Nunez, 47, allegedly touched the girl inappropriately on numerous occasions, causing her pain and "at least some indication of minor injury".
According to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, the abuse is believed to have taken place over several months, or even a couple of years.
Investigators say the suspect blackmailed the mother by threatening to report her undocumented immigration status to federal officials. If found guilty, he could face a minimum of 25 years behind bars. I don't know that he was purposely targeting the undocumented community. Nunez has worked for the Bexar County sheriff's office for over a decade. "If you break the law, you're going to jail", he said. "Just like we're doing in this case, we're filling out paperwork with this witness in question to make sure that she's given protected status pending the outcome of this case", Salazar said.
The girl's mother came forward Saturday when she brought her daughter to a local fire station, KSAT reported.
"Folks like this are creatures of habit and opportunity", Salazar said. "Certainly what was appealing was the vulnerability of that community because they are less apt to report things".
Salazar said he encourages undocumented immigrants to continue to report crimes. And to ensure that the mother can not be deported immediately back to her home country of Guatemala, the sheriff's office is working on getting her protected status during the criminal investigation. The governor signed a bill past year that effectively bans "sanctuary" jurisdictions in the state, imposing costly fines and even jail time on officials who refuse to cooperate with USA immigration agents.
Salazar said next the next stage of the investigation will involve separating Nunez from the agency "as soon as possible".