CLEVELAND — A Cleveland police officer currently on unpaid administrative leave insisted Friday that he is a victim of circumstance, claiming that he had no knowledge or involvement in an alleged credit card fraud conspiracy that resulted in federal charges against him.
In April, a federal grand jury indicted Rorell Dickerson, 25, on one count of fraud and one county of conspiracy to commit fraud. The indictment was unsealed in May and Dickerson was arrested on a warrant following a traffic stop this week. Dickerson pleaded not guilty and posted a $10,000 bond. After the city announced that the Cleveland Division of Police had placed Dickerson on unpaid administrative leave, Dickerson reached out to News 5.
"I figured it was time for me to speak up and let people know and for them to hear my side. They always hear the other side," Dickerson said.
Dickerson joined the Cleveland Division of Police in November 2018 and graduated from the 143rd Cleveland Police Academy in July 2019. Being placed into custody and arraigned, he said, was a jarring experience given his law enforcement background.
"I'm on the other side. I'm in handcuffs and shackles. I never thought I would be in that position because I always tried to avoid it," Dickerson said. "One of the reasons I tried to become a police officer so I could not be in that position that I saw family members in or friends in."
According to the federal indictment, investigators allege Dickerson, Larry Hicks, Antonio Johnson and unnamed, unindicted co-conspirators were active participants in a credit fraud scheme dating back to May 2018. The indictment states Hicks purchased an unsuspecting victim's personal information and use that information to make fraudulent identification cards. Hicks and others would allegedly use the fraudulent ID cards to open fraudulent credit accounts in order to purchase merchandise, sports tickets, vehicles and construction equipment.
Dickerson's two charges stem from the alleged purchase of vehicles at a motorsports dealer in Mentor on July 13, 2018. According to the indictment, Dickerson and Hicks allegedly used a fraudulent Visa card to purchase the vehicles. The indictment contains no other information related to the charge.
Dickerson said Hicks is his half-brother. Dickerson insists that he had no knowledge of the fraudulent credit card nor did he know about the alleged scheme behind it.
"I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time dealing with the wrong people," Dickerson said. "[Hicks] was going to pick up some bikes and he asked me to go because I had a pickup truck. I love dirtbikes, I love fast cars and stuff like that. That is my hobby. That is what I like to do. I agreed to do it not knowing the situation he was in."
When pressed, Dickerson steadfastly denied having any knowledge of the fraudulent card used in the transaction.
"The only thing the video shows is my truck being there and me messing with the [motorcycles]. That's it," Dickerson said. "They don't have me on video or anywhere else receiving anything, swiping any cards, nothing like that."
News 5 has not been able to independently verify the existence of the surveillance video or its contents. A spokesperson said the FBI does not comment on active investigations.
When asked for how he would respond to questions about how a trained law enforcement officer could be unaware of the credit card scheme, Dickerson said he had no reason to suspect Hicks was allegedly involved.
"I didn't think to think anything about it, you know?" Dickerson said. "That's why I'm in this position. It's mind blowing. I'm still [confused by] the situation. I'm still not able to think right about what's going on. I'm still clueless of why they would think that I would jeopardize my position knowing that I was a law enforcement officer."
At the time of the alleged transaction, Dickerson was not employed by the city of Cleveland. He was, however, attending a private police academy in hopes of landing a law enforcement position somewhere in Northeast Ohio.
"Why would I jeopardize my job? Why would I jeopardize losing everything I've worked hard for? I went through two police academies," Dickerson said. "Why would I go through all that just to fool around and mess it up? No, I don't know anything about what they're trying to accuse me of knowing."
Dickerson had been on restricted duty since being charged in Cleveland Municipal Court in February 2020 for doing a wheelie on a dirt bike. He was found guilty of willful wanton disregard and for operating a dirt bike on a suspended license. Dickerson said his license was suspended after a lapse in payments on his SR-22 insurance bond.