Moorhead Man Sentenced for Producing Child Pornography
FARGO – U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on Jan. 8, 2014, Dustin Howard Muscha, 33, of Moorhead, Minn., was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson on two counts of sexual exploitation of minors and two counts of possession of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.
Judge Erickson sentenced Muscha to 30 years’ imprisonment to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Muscha was ordered to register as a sex offender and to pay a $400 special assessment to the crime victim’s fund. Restitution will be determined at a later date.
United States Attorney Timothy Purdon said, “This conviction and stiff sentence are a great example of the outstanding work done every day by our Project Safe Childhood team here in North Dakota. Law enforcement officers from Fargo Police Department, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and federal Homeland Security Investigations and our Project Safe Childhood prosecutor worked cooperatively to identify the victims in this case with in a matter of hours of the discovery of the illegal images. The resulting sentence is one that should serve as a stark warning to those who would exploit children in our community.”
"This conviction serves as a stern warning about the consequences awaiting child predators who target the most vulnerable members of our communities," said Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI St. Paul, William Lowder. "Protecting our children from predators remains a priority for HSI and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify, arrest and bring these criminals to justice."
This case came to the attention of law enforcement after Muscha lost his cellular telephone while attending a concert at the Fargo Dome on Sept. 29, 2012. The phone was found by a private citizen who turned it over to the Sprint retailer located in Fargo. In an attempt to identify the owner of the cellular telephone, the manager at Sprint powered the phone on and subsequently discovered child pornography. The cellular telephone was immediately turned over to law enforcement who learned that the number assigned to the cellular phone was registered to Dustin Muscha in Moorhead, Minn.
That same day, a North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (ND BCI) forensic examiner began conducting a forensic examination of the cellular telephone which revealed hundreds of child pornographic files, including four videos produced by Muscha which
depict three different prepubescent girls engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
The investigation revealed that Muscha created the four videos between April 2011 and September 2012. Specifically, two of four videos were produced in Minnesota and the remaining two videos were produced in North Dakota. Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the ND BCI conducted further investigation and successfully identified and located the three girls in the videos.
The following day, a search warrant was executed at Muscha’s residence where copies of the child pornographic files were located as well as additional files of child pornography.
Muscha was immediately arrested and a second search warrant was executed at a storage shed that Muscha maintained in North Dakota. Additional video files were seized from this storage shed, including a fifth video that Muscha produced in 2002 in Moorhead, Minn., depicting yet another prepubescent child engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Fargo Police Department and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl prosecuted the case.