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Dave Roepke, Published July 21 2010

Wave of pleas set in Best Buy cases

More than half of the 12 men accused in a theft ring at Fargo’s Best Buy either plan to plead guilty or have already pleaded guilty, while two more may decide today whether they plead or head toward trial, court records show.

Most of the felony theft charges were filed in April in Cass County District Court, with police accusing two store security guards of allowing friends to push carts of stolen goods out of the store. An estimated $150,000 in merchandise was taken from September to February, by the store’s own count, police say.

Many of those accused of stealing goods had links to local college sports teams, including a pair of former football players for North Dakota State University.

According to court documents:

One of the ex-Bison players, Gregory Reid Jr., pleaded guilty on June 1 and was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 50 hours of community service. If he satisfies the conditions of probation, his felony conviction will drop to a misdemeanor.

The other former Bison player, Garrett Johnson, is set to enter a guilty plea on Aug. 2. Paul Larson, one of the two security guards charged, is set for an Aug. 16 change of plea hearing. They’re among six defendants who have court dates pending to plead guilty.

Adetimisola Ogundipe, the other guard charged, has scheduled a trial starting Sept. 28. Daniel Offerman Jr., who signed to play football for NDSU but was academically ineligible, is also set for a trial, his starting Aug. 24.

Ogundipe and Offerman are the only two who have opted for a trial, so far.

Three other suspects in the alleged theft ring have yet to set a change of plea hearing or a trial date. Two of them, Clarence Taye and Jeffery Ingersol, will be in Cass County Court today to indicate whether they want to change their not guilty pleas or go to trial. Chernel Magaga, another of the defendants, has a similar hearing set for July 28.

Tanya Johnson Martinez, an assistant Cass County state’s attorney, said sentencing recommendations from the state will vary depending on each person’s level of alleged involvement and criminal record.

None of the plea-change hearings, which are scheduled throughout the next two months, are based on deals for joint recommendations by the defense and prosecution, she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535