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11 more people, including collegiate athletes, charged in Fargo Best Buy thefts

FARGO -- Two Bison football players and others connected to area collegiate athletics are among 12 people charged in an inside-job theft ring at Fargo's Best Buy that may total as much as $150,000.

FARGO -- Two Bison football players and others connected to area collegiate athletics are among 12 people charged in an inside-job theft ring at Fargo's Best Buy that may total as much as $150,000.

Cass County prosecutors filed felony theft charges against 11 people Wednesday, tying them to a Best Buy security guard charged last month with recruiting others to repeatedly push carts full of electronics out of the store without paying for them.

Ten of the 12 charged are either current or former NDSU students and many of them have ties to athletic programs at NDSU or Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Police and prosecutors called it a complex case, both with the number of people involved and the dollar amount of the thefts.

"We handle many theft cases in our office, but none really of the magnitude of this one," said Tracy Peters, assistant Cass County state's attorney.

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Best Buy reports it lost $150,000 worth of merchandise between last September and February, Peters said. But it's unknown if all of those thefts are connected to this case.

Police so far have recovered $50,000 in merchandise, Lt. Pat Claus said.

Bison football players Garrett Johnson and Gregory Reid Jr. are among those facing theft charges. They were suspended while under investigation and kicked off the team Wednesday after charges were filed.

MSUM football player Anthony Sands also is among those charged. Sands was suspended in early March, when MSUM officials learned of the theft investigation as well as a drunken driving charge he's facing, MSUM Athletic Director Doug Peters said.

Court records say:

Adetimisola Ogundipe, and Paul J. Larson work as security guards for Best Buy and allowed at least 10 people to remove high-end electronics from the store.

Ogundipe, who was the first one charged last month, and Larson, each face two Class C felony charges.

The people involved would be told what items to get, pick out something for themselves and then walk out the front door with the cart when one of the security guards gave a signal.

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In some cases, Ogundipe would text or call someone involved when the manager was gone.

The items ranged from 52-inch TVs that cost more than $1,000 and iRobot vacuum cleaners to video game systems and DVDs.

In some cases, the people kept the stolen property, while other times it was sold to individuals or on the Internet.

One defendant, Anthony Rocco Martin, is accused of visiting Best Buy multiple times in one day and selling some of the merchandise in St. Cloud, Minn. He's the only one charged with a Class B felony.

These individuals are charged with one Class C felony each: Reid, Johnson, Sands, Chernel Kidzugane Magaga, Clarence Puty Taye, Christopher Michael Griffin, Daniel Jerome Offerman Jr., Jeffery M. Ingersol and Sheiku Tejan Deen.

Prosecutor Tracy Peters said warrants either had or will be issued for the defendants.

The investigation is still ongoing and it's possible more people could be charged, she said.

Peters said she's not sure how the defendants are connected, other than they're all about the same age and affiliated with area colleges.

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NDSU President Dick Hanson referred questions to athletic officials.

Athletic Director Gene Taylor said coaches have to be ready to make hard decisions when players misstep, which head coach Craig Bohl did by kicking the players off the team.

"It's certainly disappointing that those young men got themselves involved in something like this," Taylor said. "They've got kind of a long battle ahead of them."

The others charged that have NDSU ties were not recruited athletes or players that coaches spent a lot of time with, Taylor said.

"When you have 100 and some football players and some come out and say, 'I'm going to walk on, coach,' you let them walk on," Taylor said. "Most of them don't last very long. I worry more about the kids we recruit and spend time with."

Bohl and the players cooperated with the police investigation and Bohl assisted police in arranging access to the players, Taylor said.

At MSUM, Doug Peters said Sands' suspension will be evaluated at the end of the semester.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," Peters said. "It's not the standard of behavior we have with our student-athletes. At this point we believe that this has been an exception to the rule of the behavior of our student-athletes."

A Best Buy employee said managers would not comment on the case.

Three of the defendants had lawyers that prosecutors were aware of Wednesday.

An attempt to reach Ogundipe's lawyer, Patrick O'Day, was not successful.

Martin's attorney, Mark Beauchene, and Larson's attorney, Jade Rosenfeldt, did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Martin is set to appear in court Friday for an arraignment. The court dates for the other 10 charged Wednesday have not been set.

Ogundipe has a preliminary hearing scheduled April 22.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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