FBI honors local officers for work in federal sex case
The arrest and subsequent federal indictment of a Blooming Prairie man called a "monster" by law enforcement was thanks in part to the work of three local officers.
For their roles, the men were recognized Monday by the FBI.
Olmsted County Detective Mike Ranfranz and Rochester police officers Chad Blanchette and Jared Pankratz received commendations from Warren Pellegrin, special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis branch.
What began as a simple afternoon of assistance on a computer-related search warrant evolved into an international, multijurisdictional investigation, resulting in the arrests of several child pornography distributors.
One of them, Brian Broulik, 41, last week accepted a plea agreement in federal court that will put him in prison for the next 27 to 30 years. He was charged in March with one count each of producing, distributing and possessing child pornography.
His sentencing date has not been set.
Ranfranz is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Minnesota Child Exploitation Task Force, which is sponsored by the FBI and is "very well trained in computer forensics," said Olmsted County Lt. Tom Claymon.
Blanchette and Pankratz are members of the Rochester Police Department's intelligence unit, "actively seeking, assessing and analyzing intelligence data," said Chief Roger Peterson, "working with officers both on patrol and investigations, putting information together and providing direction."
Investigations today would be "dead in the water" without computer forensics expertise, he said.
Claymon said local involvement "started when I got a phone call at home one afternoon."
It was an FBI field agent, "asking if they could use Mike for an assist in a search warrant over in Steele County," where Broulik lived.
"They realized it was a much bigger fish than what they expected" once Broulik's computer was accessed, Claymon said. "Once they realized that, Mike was pretty much dedicated full time to it, for months, sifting through information."
That led to search warrants locally on Broulik and his cellphone, Claymon said, which in turn led to new victims — including a child from Kasson whom Broulik is accused of abusing.
"He is the bogey man," Claymon said. "This is the big, bad bogey man we've been told about since we were kids."
According to court documents, Broulik would film the abuse, then share it with other pedophiles. The local investigation led to arrests both nationally and internationally, Claymon said.
"This is a really, really, really good person to have off our streets," he said. "I can't emphasize that enough. The word prolific is an understatement to describe how busy he was. There's a whole underworld of pedophiles on the Internet."
The federal document alleges that on May 12, 2012, Broulik — who is classified as a Level 3 sex offender — induced a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a video on his cellphone. It also alleges that on March 9, 2012, Broulik distributed similar depictions via a computer, and on May 24, 2012, he was in possession of similar depictions and videos.
The federal charges mirror those filed against Broulik in Olmsted County last year; he posted bail in May 2012. Upon Broulik's release, the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office took the unusual step of warning the public that Broulik "is a threat to the community."
The same day Broulik was released on $25,000 bond, he was arrested at his job in Rochester after authorities discovered suspicious text messages in their follow-up investigation. That led to a charge in Mower County.
It's likely all open state charges will be dismissed as a result of the federal case.
Broulik was first convicted in 1997 of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Steele County. He was convicted of an identical charge a year later in Rice County.
In 2006, Steele County officials tried, unsuccessfully, to have Broulik civilly committed.