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Published October 12 2012

Found cellphone leads to child porn charges

FARGO – A found cellular phone that was turned in to a local Sprint retailer earlier this week has led to federal child pornography charges against a 32-year-old Moorhead man.

Dustin Howard Muscha was arrested Wednesday and made his first appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fargo on charges of sexual exploitation of minors and possession of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

According to court records:

A manager at a Sprint store in Fargo reported to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation on Tuesday that a man had entered the store that morning and dropped off a phone he had found.

The man told the manager he had tried to locate the phone’s owner – even putting an ad in the local newspaper – but couldn’t.

The manager took custody of the phone but didn’t take down the name of the person who delivered it.

The phone was password-protected, but the manager was able to gain access to it by doing a “hard reset” that wiped the password but not the files.

The manager browsed files on the phone, looking for owner information, and discovered a folder titled “homade porn” that contained a pornographic video involving a girl about 6 to 8 years old.

Sprint records showed the phone number was registered to Muscha.

The phone contained at least four videos of prepubescent girls being sexually exploited, as well as “multiple thumbnail images of child pornography,” the complaint states.

Muscha was acquainted with at least two of the alleged victims, it states.

The complaint also refers to a Fargo police investigation into a report that Muscha inappropriately touched a 4-year-old girl in 2009, but he wasn’t charged.

Muscha remains in federal custody. A detention hearing is set for Thursday.

His criminal record includes a guilty plea on June 13 in Clay County District Court to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct for brawling or fighting. A domestic assault charge was dismissed. He was sentenced on July 25 to five days served in the Clay County Jail and one year of supervised probation and was ordered to undergo a domestic abuse evaluation.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528