BISMARCK — A Bismarck man has been accused of sexually exploiting 15 underage teenagers over the internet, and there could be more victims, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said Thursday, July 16.

A grand jury indicted 21-year-old Dawson M. Rouse of Bismarck on 27 federal counts, including sexual exploitation of a minor, production of sexual images, coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity and transfer of obscene materials to a minor.

If convicted, Rouse faces up to life in prison without parole. He could face a minimum of 15 years in prison.

“I’ve not seen a case that has started off out of the gate as having this number of alleged victims,” Wrigley said of the charges.

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Court documents allege Rouse used the internet and social media platforms, including Snapchat, to encourage the minors to perform sexual acts. He also produced child pornography and sent sexually explicit photos to children, according to court documents.

Some of the charges mention allegations that date as far back as January 2018, with the most recent ending in May 2020. Children ranged from ages 13 to 17 from Burleigh, Ward, Divide and Cass counties, prosecutors said.

It appears Rouse was arrested on Monday.

Wrigley declined to say how his office was made aware of the allegations or whether other suspects could be involved.

However, the investigation remains active, he said, noting there could be other potential victims that come forward.

A case like this should serve as an alert to parents, Wrigley said.

“This is a real and present danger in our communities,” he said.

Wrigley said the investigation is not just centered in North Dakota but reaches nationally. He added he and his office will follow leads wherever they go.

The U.S. Attorney encouraged parents to watch for warning signs in their children and to tell them they have the children’s best interests at heart. One way to do that is to tell children who have been victimized that they did nothing wrong, he said.

Anyone with information about the case or other victims is asked to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Fargo at 701-297-7400.