Progreso ex-cop faces new charges after more victims uncovered

New charges have been filed against the former Progreso police officer and Hidalgo County jailer accused of sexually assaulting a person in custody.

Matthew Lee Sepulveda, 24, turned himself into authorities last Thursday to face three new charges: sexual assault, official oppression and violating the civil rights of a person in custody.

The additional charges came after investigators with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office discovered evidence that led them to believe Sepulveda had victimized more people in addition to the 20-year-old man who made an outcry June 29. The Crier does not identify victims of sexual assault.

“This is the result of our investigators going over evidence collected there at the Progreso PD and we were able to collect that evidence and identify these individuals,” Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra said Thursday afternoon.

While poring over surveillance video, investigators came across footage that appeared to show Sepulveda escorting two young men into the police department at approximately 4 a.m. on June 30, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Crier.

When the investigators probed further, they could find no jail logs or police reports associated with the pair.

It wasn’t until investigators spoke with another officer who had been on duty that night that they learned the officer had conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle with a broken taillight. The pair — 17-year-old twin brothers — had been passengers in the vehicle, the officer told investigators.

Sepulveda allegedly instructed the officer to remain on patrol while he took the brothers to the city jail.

Using information provided by the other officer, sheriff’s investigators were able to identify the brothers, who confirmed they had been taken to the Progreso Police Department after a traffic stop.

The teens detailed what happened next.

According to one of the brothers, an officer he later identified as Sepulveda led him into an office. There, Sepulveda allegedly instructed the teen to masturbate before Sepulveda performed oral sex on him, the teen told investigators. Sepulveda also allegedly showed the teen online pornography before taking him back to a jail cell.

The teen told his brother what had happened, and “told him to just say no to the officer,” the affidavit read.

Sepulveda allegedly escorted the second teen to the office and asked if the teen “would be willing to do the same thing.”

The teen said no before Sepulveda escorted him back to the jail cell, the affidavit read.

Surveillance video and cellphone records appear to corroborate the teens’ story, according to the affidavit.

Sepulveda allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old man in his custody just two nights before the incident with the brothers.

That man told investigators Sepulveda arrested him at approximately 10:30 p.m. on June 28. Sepulveda then allegedly threatened the man with deportation before taking him to an office and performing oral sex on him.

The man reported the assault to sheriff’s investigators just hours later.

According to records released by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Sepulveda began working at the Progreso Police Department on April 17. His employment with the department ended on July 2, after he was reportedly fired by Progreso Police Chief Alberto Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has since resigned from the department.

“Actually, it came as a surprise, but the city administrator had advised me that the chief of police had tendered his resignation,” Progreso City Attorney Javier Villalobos said via phone last Thursday. Villalobos was unsure what day the chief had resigned.

Guerra said the chief had initially been cooperative with the investigation, until recently. “Then when we reached out to him he asked us to contact him through his attorney,” Guerra said.

Villalobos assured Progreso residents that public safety remains a top priority. “The citizens of Progreso, no matter what, are going to be protected. Even if we have to get assistance from somebody, but they will be protected,” he said.

Meanwhile, Guerra said the case remains open and that investigators are still combing through evidence and searching for additional victims. “If anybody knows of any other victims, or if you have been a victim, we ask that you contact the sheriff’s office,” Guerra said.

“If he did it and got caught once, we believe that he had probably had done it before, so that’s what we’re looking into,” the sheriff added.

Prior to working at Progreso, Sepulveda served four years as a county jailer. He was promoted twice — first to the rank of corporal, then to sergeant — in 2017.

He resigned from the jail in October 2018, the sheriff said. Prior to his resignation, Sepulveda had been slated to face disciplinary action — what Guerra called “administrative reviews” — for violating a department policy against recording a previous administrative counseling session.

“Instead of facing those administrative reviews he just decided to go ahead and resign,” Guerra said after the initial set of charges were filed against Sepulveda.

Sepulveda was released on $225,000 bond one day after being taken into custody for the first set of charges.

His bond on the three new charges had additionally been set at a total of $370,000 last Friday; however, Sepulveda was released from custody Saturday on a reduced total bond of $40,000.