Investigators allege man impersonated cop, ‘targeted’ women who posted online ads

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Joseph Adam Silva
Joseph Adam Silva

A former Carolina Beach reserve officer previously charged with multiple sex offenses in New Hanover County now faces similar charges in Brunswick County.  Detectives there have become suspicious of the former officer’s alleged activity and are seeking additional information from women who may have encountered the suspect though online classified sites.

The Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office on Friday charged 29-year-old Joseph Adam Silva with second-degree rape, second-degree sexual offense, sexual servitude of an adult victim and misdemeanor impersonating a law enforcement officer, according to Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Emily Flax.

“Encounters may have included assault or attempted assault and Silva misrepresenting himself as law enforcement,” Flax said. “Silva targeted females with ads on websites such as Backpage or Craigslist. Detectives would like to assure anyone who comes forward that they will not be incriminated for their actions regarding those ads.”

According to arrest warrants, the alleged offenses occurred between Jan. 1-20 and involve the same woman. The warrants state Silva impersonated an officer and forced the woman to perform sexual acts on him, while threatening to take her to jail if she didn’t comply.

The latest charges follow what investigators suspect may be a pattern of impersonating an officer, followed by forced sexual acts by use of threats or in exchange for leniency.

Silva was previously arrested on two separate occasions in New Hanover County, where he faces similar charges. He was originally arrested on a charge of second-degree sexual offense on March 17 and was released from the New Hanover County Jail after posting a $50,000 secured bond.

Silva was arrested again on March 24. At that time, Silva was charged with two counts of sexual servitude of an adult victim, second-degree forced sex offense, three counts of second-degree burglary, one count of embezzlement and four counts of misdemeanor impersonating a law enforcement officer. He also faced two counts of misdemeanor child abuse and failure to store a firearm to protect a child in connection with the case.

According to New Hanover County arrest warrants, Silva’s charges are connected to a Jan. 12 incident in which he allegedly impersonated an undercover officer conducting a prostitution sting and held a female victim in “sexual servitude.”

Warrants also alleged Silva broke into a neighbor’s home on Raleigh Avenue in Carolina Beach on three separate occasions between March 9 and 15. Those same warrants state he allegedly impersonated a law enforcement officer conducting a prostitution sting on three other victims during that time period, while on one occasion on March 15 he held one of the female victims in sexual servitude.

An additional warrant alleges Silva neglected to deliver a Motorola radio and charger valued at $4,000 to the Town of Carolina Beach. It’s not clear whether Silva used a radio in the alleged encounter with the female victims.

According to records with the Town of Carolina Beach, Silva was hired as a reserve officer with the Carolina Beach Police Department on March 30, 2015, according to records provided by the town manager’s office. His employment with the town ended on Sept. 23, 2015.

Silva is now being held at the New Hanover County Jail under a $4.5 million secured bond, according to jail records.

Detectives with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office are continuing their investigation in to the case, Flax said, adding that the sheriff’s office is seeking tips from members of the community.

Anyone with information about this case or who may have encountered Silva is asked to contact Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Laurie Watson at 910-880-4842.

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