Chaves County sheriff says Mason committed crime while still police chief
Authorities say former chief provided cellphone for 15-year-old child
HAGERMAN — The recent chief of the Hagerman Police Department is among five men ranging in age from 20 to 66 who have been charged with numerous crimes related to the alleged sexual exploitation and solicitation of a teenage girl.
In a news release issued Friday afternoon, the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office said the department concluded a large child exploitation case that originated in the Hagerman area in the spring of 2017. The Sheriff’s Office said the case involves former Hagerman Police Chief Cassius Mason, whom investigators say gave the 15-year-old girl a cellphone for illicit purposes.
“During this investigation, our investigators were able to determine that at least five adult men were involved in the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old victim,” Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder said. “Each of the five suspects in this case do not appear to have been conspiring together, but rather each acting on their own with no specific knowledge of the others’ involvement.”
Snyder explained that the mother of the 15-year-old victim called to report that she had discovered her daughter in possession of a cellphone that the mother had not provided her.
“The mother reported that after she could gain access into the cellphone, she discovered what could only be described as completely inappropriate text and picture messages and immediately called the Sheriff’s Office,” Snyder said. “We spent a considerable amount of time trying to identify those persons communicating on this cellphone with the women’s daughter and trying to trace the origins of the cellphone itself.”
Snyder said investigators determined that the person responsible for providing the cellphone to the 15-year-old girl was 66-year-old Cassius Mason III.
“As you may be aware, Cass Mason is the recently retired chief of the Hagerman Police Department and these crimes were reported to have occurred while he was still acting as police chief,” Snyder said. “When some of these facts came to light, I quickly alerted the Hagerman mayor, Cliff Waide. I commend Mayor Waide for acting quickly to protect the town of Hagerman.”
Thursday morning, the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office began serving arrest warrants on the five suspects identified during this investigation. Snyder said all five suspects were in custody at around 4 p.m. Thursday.
“This case involved not only cellphone text/picture messages, but also some person-to-person contact with the victim,” the sheriff explained.
The suspects in the child exploitation case include Mason, of Hagerman, 60-year-old Johnny Terrazas, of Roswell, 58-year-old Alfred Brown Jr., of Roswell, 21-year-old Christian Torres, of Roswell, and 20-year-old Nicholas Landers of Hagerman.
Mason is charged with sexual exploitation of a child, child solicitation by electronic device and criminal sexual contact of a minor.
Snyder said Johnny Terrazas is facing some of the most serious charges, including sexual exploitation of a child, child solicitation by electronic device, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and criminal sexual contact of a minor.
Brown Jr. Is charged with sexual exploitation of a child and child solicitation by electronic device. Snyder said Brown Jr. was employed with the Hagerman Schools, working as a custodian at the time the crimes are said to have occurred.
“The Hagerman Superintendent was notified, by my detective sergeant,” Snyder said. “Around the same time as the Mayor of Hagerman and they also took swift action to protect the school district and their students.”
Nicholas Landers is charged with criminal sexual penetration of a minor and child solicitation by electronic device.
Christian Torres is charged with two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and child solicitation by electronic device.
Snyder commended the county’s deputies, detectives and supervisors who helped with the investigation.
“These types of cases require tremendous time and effort to complete,” he said. “It is difficult to have to see and hear what one human being will do to another — and especially when the victim is a child.
“My deputies are especially committed to defending children who are often the victims of unspeakable abuse and I admire them for their character through it all.”