FARGO, N.D. – A Fargo-Moorhead metro-area man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to sexually exploiting minors and possessing child pornography.
This guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI); the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI); and the police departments of Moorhead, Minn., and Fargo, N.D.
Dustin Howard Muscha, 32, of Moorhead, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually exploiting minors and two counts of possessing child pornography.
Law enforcement authorities began investigating after a lost cell phone was turned into the Sprint retailer in South Fargo. Sprint representatives discovered a child pornography video on the phone involving a girl about 6 years old; they immediately contacted law enforcement. The cell phone, which was traced to Muscha, was searched by a BCI forensic examiner who discovered additional child pornography videos involving two other children under 4 years old.
Through further investigation, it was discovered that Muscha created the child pornography videos involving the pre-pubescent children between March 2009 and September 2012 in both Fargo and Moorhead. Muscha maintained these videos and other child pornography images on his cell phone, which he lost at a Fargodome concert Sept. 29, 2012. The Fargodome is an indoor athletic stadium and concert venue owned by the city on the campus of North Dakota State University. A search warrant was also obtained for Muscha’s storage unit in South Fargo, which revealed additional child pornography.
Upon conviction, each count of sexually exploiting minors carries a mandatory penalty of 15 to 30 years’ imprisonment. Each count of possessing child pornography carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
Sentencing for Muscha has been scheduled for Aug. 29 in U.S. District Court in Fargo.
The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.