WILMINGTON — A former law enforcement officer was convicted on multiple sexual assault charges in New Hanover County Superior Court Monday morning.
Joseph Adam Silva, 31, was convicted today of four counts of second degree sexual offense, two counts of second degree rape, three counts of sexual servitude of an adult victim, and four counts of impersonating a law enforcement officer.
Joseph Silva served as a law enforcement officer with the Carolina Beach Police Department beginning March of 2015. Silva was terminated before completing his probationary period.
A two-year investigation
According to a press release from the Office of District Attorney Ben David, in February of 2015, a missing person’s report was filed with the Wilmington Police Department regarding a young woman. She was eventually located by Detective Williams. and reported a sexual assault at the hands of a man who claimed to be a police officer — later proven to be Silva.
Silva had contacted her as an escort through Backpage.com. When the female met Silva, he showed her his former police badge and a picture of himself in police uniform on his iPhone. The offender claimed that he was working a prostitution operation and forced the victim to perform oral sex on him.
This investigation was initially kept discreet as detectives were unsure if the offender was in fact an officer.
On January 7, 2016, Silva contacted a 16-year-old escort through Backpage.com. He let her met, again claiming to be a police officer.
Silva showed the escort his former police identification card but covered his name; he also used to pictures of himself in uniform to convince the escort he was an officer. Silva then told the escort he was working a prostitution operation and forcibly raped her in his truck.
After being contacted by the escort, Detective Campbell with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation; initially, the attacker’s identity was unknown.
On March 15, 2016, a 19-year-old female who had advertised as an escort on Backpage.com was contacted by Silva and asked to meet at a Carolina Beach residence.
Once again, Silva claimed that he was a police officer, shower her an ID card, photos and a holstered sidearm. He then sexually assaulted the victim.
This victim then met with FBI Special Agent Novelli, and reported the sexual assault. She cooperated in arranging to meet the offender again so that his identity could be discovered and charges could be filed.
Silva showed up for the meeting and was taken into custody by the New Hanover Sheriff’s Office.
Silva had left his three-year-old and seven-year-old children in his home asleep after leaving to meet the female next door. Officers ensured the children were safe and contacted the Department of Social Services.
More victims come forward
After Silva’s arrest, a young woman living in Brunswick County saw him on the news, and reported that she had been assaulted by the defendant to Major Laurie Watson with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.
She said Silva had contacted her through an advertisement as an escort on Craigslist, claiming he was a police officer working a prostitution operation.
He forced the victim to perform oral sex on him and forcibly raped her. Detectives found that the telephone number the defendant used to contact this victim was the same number used to contact the 16-year-old victim in early January, linking Silva to the crime.
A forensic examination of Silva’s telephone revealed direct contact with two of the known victims, along with multiple females known to law enforcement officers to engage in prostitution. It also showed direct contact between Silva and the Cape Fear Escorts company.
Detectives attempted to contact five women listed in Silva’s phone; one of them reported a sexual assault that had occurred in the early morning hours of March 9, 2016, at the same residence in Carolina Beach where the March 15 assault had occurred. All five women gave detailed descriptions of their attacker matching the Silva.
Brought to justice
“The defendant preyed on some of the most vulnerable people in our community, people who are fearful they are going to be harmed, fearful they won’t be believed, fearful they will be arrested and sent to jail, fearful their families will find out,” stated Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan. “By holding himself out as a law enforcement, Joseph Silva placed these women in fear for their lives and also made them feel they would not be safe if they reported his crimes against them.”
Silva will serve a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of 17. On his release, he will be under an additional suspended sentence of 10 to 17 years with supervised probation for a period of 60 months in the sex offender control program.
Silva will have to surrender his law enforcement certification. A permanent no-contact order will be in place for all of the victims.
When released from prison, these convictions will require Silva to register as an aggravated sexual offender with satellite-based monitored Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry for the rest of his natural life.