Former CMU faculty member arrested, charged with possession of child pornography

Editor's Note: Read the full (graphic) federal criminal complaint against Mark Ranzenberger below.

Former fixed-term faculty member Mark Ranzenberger was arrested this morning and will be charged with possession of child pornography in U.S. District Court later today.

A U.S. Secret Service complaint filed Thursday details how investigators recovered more than 1,000 images of prepubescent children posing naked or engaged in sexual acts from digital devices owned by or used by Ranzenberger.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Ranzenberger is scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, in Bay City. Possession of child pornography carries a sentence of 5-20 years in prison.

In addition to the images, police also found a "grooming" document detailing how to manipulate a child from birth to age 11 "to participate in sexual acts." Ranzenberger told investigators he did create the document, but that it was "pure fantasy." Several PowerPoint presentations containing obscene material were found as well.

A Central Michigan University investigation began March 4 when a student reported to Faculty Personnel Services that Ranzenberger had accessed files during class from his Dropbox cloud data storage account. Thumbnail images of pornographic material could be seen by the entire class. Information Technology made a remote back up of Ranzenberger's computer. 

On March 9 FPS found images of child pornography and reported the incident to CMUPD

CMU Police Detective Michael Sienkiewicz executed a search warrant on March 10 and searched Ranzenberger's Office. Police recovered a university-owned iMac computer, USB external hard drive, zip disk/drive, four 3.5 floppy disks, two USB thumb drives, two Flip video cameras, an IGB hard drive, a Kodak digital camera and SD card, an Ipad, and multiple CD's, zip disks and floppy disks.

During an interview with CMUPD Staff Sergeant Mike Morrow, Ranzenberger stated he thought he had "gotten rid of all that stuff." Ranzenberger said he obtained the images from a German website, and voluntarily turned his personal computer into police. 

More than 1,000 images of child pornography were found on the computer, including images of children younger than 12 years old engaged in sex acts and penetration of an infant. Police also found photos taken by Ranzenberger of children in public locations, without the knowledge of the children. According to the court document, he told one of the investigators that downloaded the pornographic images of children from a German website sometime in 2004-2008, saved them on discs and used the images to sexually gratify himself. Recently he looked at one of the discs on his university computer because it has a disc drive. He said he saved 5 to 10 Powerpoint files into his Dropbox cloud storage account. 

Ranzenberger told investigators that despite looking at the images and writing the grooming document that he never sexually assaulted a child.Ranzenberger resigned from CMU and the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission in letters sent to CMU and the Mount Pleasant City Commission on March 21. Ranzenberger taught journalism and broadcast and cinematic arts classes at CMU since 1999.