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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Former Bemidji Assistant Principal Sentenced To 300 Months In Federal Prison For Sexually Exploiting Dozens Of Children

United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker announced the sentencing of BRANDON MARK BJERKNES, 35, to 300 months in prison for sexually exploiting dozens of children. BJERKNES, who pleaded guilty on September 28, 2017, to one count of coercion and enticement of a minor and one count of production of child pornography, was sentenced on February 6, 2018, before Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn.

“During his tenure as Assistant Principal of Bemidji Middle School, Brandon Bjerknes repeatedly victimized at least 55 vulnerable young girls and boys over the course of almost three years,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Munoz-Kaphing. “Today’s sentence ensures that this defendant is held accountable for his reprehensible crimes and our community, including the brave victims who shared their stories, will be safe from his predatory actions.”

“Preying on children is detestable. It is especially egregious when the predator is someone in a position of authority and trust,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “Partnering with our law enforcement partners and prosecutors, we will find these people and bring them to justice.”

The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office is extremely satisfied to see this case against Brandon Bjerknes concluded in the federal courts,” said Sheriff Phil Hodapp. “Mr. Bjerknes violated his high position of trust and authority over the children in our schools and our community, so it was exceptionally important for us to see this case brought to justice.”

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, since 2006, BJERKNES was employed by the Bemidji Area Schools and, beginning in 2014, served as the Assistant Principal of Bemidji Middle School until his resignation in April 2017. While holding the position of Assistant Principal, BJERKNES posed as a 13-15-year-old male named “Brett Larson,” and used various social media profiles on Facebook and Snapchat with “decoy photographs” to contact minor females and males in middle and high school. Using the alias profiles, BJERKNES directed the minor victims to send him sexually explicit photographs. BJERKNES also used the alias profiles to engage in sexually explicit conversations with the minor victims. Some of the minor victims BJERKNES contacted on social media were students at Bemidji Middle School.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, on March 20, 2017, law enforcement executed a search warrant at BJERKNES’ Bemidji residence. Officers seized a number of electronic devices including BJERKNES’ personal iPhone and work iPhone, multiple iPads, computers and external hard drives. The social media accounts and the electronic devices contained multiple sexually explicit photos and videos of multiple known minor victims. Law enforcement identified evidence that BJERKNES used the alias social media accounts to contact more than 50 minor victims.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Angela Munoz-Kaphing prosecuted the case.

 

Defendant Information:                                                                                                                     

BRANDON MARK BJERKNES, 35

Bemidji, Minn.

Convicted:

  • Coercion and enticement of a minor, 1 count
  • Production of child pornography, 1 count

Sentenced:

  • 300 months in prison
  • Lifetime of supervised release
  • $8,789.93 in restitution thus far

 

 

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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600

 

 

Component(s): 
Updated February 7, 2018