WEST FARGO, N.D. — Former West Fargo teacher Ronald Thompson will be charged with soliciting a minor after an out-of-state tip led West Fargo investigators to suspect he had been trying to solicit a minor online.
At a press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 24, West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness said during the investigation, which involved investigators from a specialized task force, Thompson solicited a minor online that was actually an undercover investigator.
"The minor that Thompson interacted with was actually a ICAC officer in a different state," Otterness said.
Otterness said there was no reason to believe any local minors were involved with Thompson.
ICAC is a national network of law enforcement agencies who conduct proactive and reactive investigations of persons involved in child abuse and exploitation online.
Otterson said officers submitted the investigation to the Cass County state's attorney for charges on Feb. 23. Cass County State Attorney Birch Burdick said Wednesday he has filed one count of felony luring a minor by computers or other electronic means against Johnson.
The class B felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,00 fine, Burdick said.
"At this point Mr. Thompson like anyone else charged with a crime is entitled to a presumption of innocence which will be treated accordingly," he said.
Thompson, a former teacher for the Career and Technology Education department and advisor for the Technology Student Association, submitted a letter of resignation effective immediately on Tuesday, Feb. 2, after police secured a search warrant for his property.
"It wasn't done in front of students," Otterness said of the search warrant served to Thompson Feb. 2.
He said it was done at the school because Thompson had access to a computer and other media there. A warrant was served at his home as well.
The school board accepted Thompson's resignation without discussion as part of their consent agenda at a regular board meeting Monday, Feb. 8.
Superintendent Beth Slette has said families were not notified en masse about Thompson's resignation because there is apparently no connection to the school district.
"Mr. Thompson has not been on school property since Feb. 2 when he tendered his resignation," Slette said.
Slette said Wednesday there will not be an independent investigation by the school district, but officials will continue to work with police on further investigations. Police and school officials did not comment on the nature of the investigation earlier, but police said the investigation was not related to Thompson's teaching job.
Ottnerness said the investigation took time due to the number of technology devices possessed by Thompson.
As part of the investigation, we seized numerous items of evidence, much of those being technology, Otterness said.
He said additional charges are possible as the investigation remains ongoing.
"We are waiting on information to come back which is why we are not commenting on closing this case," he said. "I'd like to take this moment and encourage parents of young people, maybe this is a really good time to sit down with your kids about the dangers of the internet. The internet can be a very dangerous place for young people."