A child pornography investigation landed FBI agents at the doorstep of a Ball State University dorm room earlier this month, where they found a student accused of downloading and sharing illegal material.
Joseph Ryan Topp made his first appearance in U.S. District Court on Monday.
It came nearly a week after federal prosecutors indicted the Angola teen on one count of “distribution and production of material containing visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.”
Topp – who is either 18 or 19 years old – allegedly downloaded child pornography at his mother’s Angola home and possessed it on his computer in his dorm, according to court records released Monday.
The investigation into Topp began in July when an FBI agent in New Haven logged onto a publicly available peer-to-peer file sharing program using an undercover alias.
The agent’s undercover alias was a screen name indicative of someone who could possibly be searching for child pornography, according to court records released Monday.
After interacting with others on the network, the FBI agent found someone using a screen name that investigators now believe belonged to Topp. While browsing that person’s shared directories on the network, the FBI agent found several files that contained child pornography, according to court documents.
A partial description of those files in court documents indicated that they were videos depicting the sex acts of boys ranging from the age of 7 to 16.
Investigators traced the user of the screen name as living at a home in Angola, and in September, FBI agents set up surveillance of the home.
On Nov. 9, FBI agents served a search warrant at the house, where they talked with Topp’s mother and learned that he was a student at Ball State and living in Muncie.
Two FBI agents then traveled to the school and eventually to Topp’s room in Clevenger Hall. Topp allowed the agents to search his laptop, two thumb drives, an external hard drive and a digital camera he had in the room, according to court documents.
On one of the thumb drives, an agent found four deleted files which the undercover FBI agent had previously downloaded from the peer-to-peer network in the summer.
The agents also found one picture depicting child pornography.
When questioned by the agents, Topp admitted that he used the peer-to-peer network to download and make child pornography available to others, according to court documents. He also admitted to downloading child pornography from a site called “Omegle” just days before FBI agents appeared at his door, the court documents said.
If convicted, Topp could face between five and 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to court documents. He is currently being held by the United States Marshal Service.
A message left for officials at Ball State as to his status as a student or what action the school might take against Topp was not returned Monday.