On Friday, June 4, 2021, PCSO Computer Crimes detectives placed 47-year-old Duane Andrew Franz under arrest, charging him with 45 counts possession of child pornography, a second degree felony, after a tip from his former employer Duke Energy led them to the investigation.
Franz was employed as a maintenance planner at the Fort Meade plant until he was laid off in June 2019. A Duke Energy employee recently found a iConnect flash drive in a desk drawer, and when the employee plugged in the drive, he saw pornographic images of what looked like children between the ages of six and eight years old. Duke representatives immediately called the Sheriff’s Office. During a forensic examination of the device, detectives identified 20 images depicting child pornography, and four homemade videos that were obviously recorded without the victims’ knowledge. The two victims in those videos appeared to be between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, and the videos were taken from a hidden spot in a child’s bedroom, depicting the victims in various stages of undress. Franz was positively identified as the owner of the flash drive, and the two victims in the homemade videos were identified as children to whom he had access.
During the investigation, detectives learned Franz worked as a planner at Coca-Cola prior to Duke Energy. A laptop and flash drive that were issued by that company to Franz also were found to contain images of child pornography.
Detectives served a search warrant at Franz’s home on June 4, 2021, and interviewed Franz and his wife. Franz admitted to looking at child pornography but denied storing any child pornography on his previous employers’ devices and/or laptops. He told detectives that he has a “sex addiction” and has received counseling for it. He said that he had a “lapse in judgement” when he secretly recorded the victims. Franz’s wife told detectives that Franz has a “pornography addiction” for which he was seeking treatment.
During the search warrant at their home, detectives seized 20 flash drives, an Apple iPhone, a mini digital camera, an external hard drive, and a laptop computer. All of these devices will be forensically examined; if any additional child pornography is located, more charges will be filed. So far Franz is being charged with 45 counts from the images and videos located on the devices from Duke and Coca-Cola.
The two victims were screened to determine if they are victims of any other crimes.
“This suspect betrayed the trust of nearly everyone in his life to fuel his addiction to child pornography. He even created his own child pornography by exploiting two children he had access to – and we will ensure those victims get the help they need to repair the damage he did. As we continue our investigation, we will file any additional and appropriate charges against Duane Franz, who should never again have access to children.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff