Gridder facing fraud charge out on bail

Kamariea Forcier

One of two Gophers football players charged with credit card fraud was released from the Ramsey County jail Monday afternoon after turning himself in earlier that day.
Billy Dee Cockerham, a redshirt freshman quarterback, was charged Friday with one felony count of credit fraud, and one count of theft in connection with incidents at Dayton’s Rosedale store on May 24. As a redshirt member, Cockerham practices with the team but does not play in games.
Additionally, Gophers defensive back Joseph Justice and his girlfriend Tara Taylor were each charged with two felony counts of credit fraud and one count of theft stemming from the same incident. If convicted, they could face up to $2,500 in fines and five years in prison. Neither Justice nor Taylor had been arrested as of Monday evening.
Sabrina Rosaria, Cockerham’s girlfriend, was also charged with one count of credit fraud and one count of theft. She was released from Ramsey County court Monday afternoon after turning herself in along with Cockerham. Taylor and Rosaria are not University students.
Cockerham was suspended from the Gophers football team pending further investigation. Justice was dismissed from the team.
University men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart said in a written statement, “This type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated.”
On May 24, Dayton’s loss prevention employees reported seeing Justice and University student Adrian Ellis, who lives at the same address as Justice, selecting about $1,000 worth of clothing from the men’s department at Dayton’s Rosedale store.
They carried the clothing to the juniors department, where Justice’s girlfriend Taylor was working at the counter, according to a Ramsey County criminal complaint. Justice said he changed his mind about taking the clothes while at the counter, and returned to the men’s department with Ellis and the clothing.
Meanwhile, Cockerham and Rosario were in the juniors department, where Cockerham was seen talking to Taylor and Justice.
Both Cockerham and Rosario handed a pile of clothing to Taylor, who added more clothing to the pile.
Cockerham went to the men’s department, where Justice handed him a Dayton’s card in Justice’s name, with someone else’s account number written on the back.
Cockerham then returned to the juniors department and handed Taylor the credit card. Taylor entered the handwritten number through the charge machine, but did not ring all of the clothing prices into the register.
Taylor and Rosario then quickly bagged all the merchandise. Rosario and Cockerham then left the store with merchandise valued at $852.47, according to the complaint.
Justice and Taylor were also charged with a similar credit fraud that took place at Dayton’s on May 21.
According to the criminal complaint, Justice admitted his role in the May 24 incident, and said he intended to take clothing that day before being “scared off.”
Taylor admitted she gave Justice the credit card numbers written on the back of his card during both incidents and returned all the merchandise, valued at $918.97, taken May 21.
Rosario admitted her part in the May 24 fraud, and said the clothing was intended for herself, Cockerham and Taylor.
This incident is the latest in a string of troubles plaguing the Gophers football players in the past year. Since November, five members of the team have been suspended and two dismissed in connection with police investigations.