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Trio plead guilty to home invasion attempts

Three Charlottesville men pleaded guilty this week to federal robbery charges after two thwarted attempts in September at invading an Albemarle County home to steal cash and marijuana.

Tyreek Saquan Ragland, 24, Madison Wonne Zelee, 26, and Tyrel Anthony Dowell, 22, all pled guilty to federal robbery charges.

Ragland, the leader who organized the robbery plan, pled guilty to one count of Hobbs Act robbery. Zelee and Dowell both pled guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The Hobbs Act prohibits actual or attempted robbery affecting interstate or foreign commerce in any way or degree and carries a maximum prison term of twenty years. Felons found in possession of a firearm face a prison term of up to ten years.

The Hobbs Act, enacted in 1946, states that anyone who delays or otherwise affects commerce by robbery or extortion, or conspires to do so, will be subject to fines, up to 20 years in prison, or both, on each count.

The Supreme Court in 2016 ruled that the federal government can prosecute a robbery of drug dealers under federal law without having to first prove the drugs were intended for sale across state lines.

According to court documents, Ragland, Zelee and Dowell, targeted the county resident on Sept. 30 because they believed he would be in possession of a large quantity of marijuana and cash

In the first attempt, Zelee knocked on the victim’s front door and claimed he had lost his dog and needed to find in an attempt to gain entrance to the house.

Dowell, wearing a ski mask, was then seen walking from the woods towards the residence, at which point the victim refused to open the front door and Zelee and Dowell fled the scene in the getaway vehicle driven by Ragland.

Shortly after that attempt, the intended victim notified his father of what happened and the two began searching for the vehicle in which Ragland, Zelee, and Dowell fled.

While they were searching, a witness who had stayed in the house called the father and son and told them a pizza delivery person was now at the house trying to deliver a pizza. The son told the witness no one ordered a pizza and warned the witness not to open the door.

Immediately returned home, the father and son saw a vehicle parked along the side of the road near their matching the earlier get-away car.

Aware that the faux pizza man was being adamant about an order being placed, the father and son worried that the suspicious individuals from the parked car may be hiding in the woods and decided to leave.

As they got back into the car, Zelee and Dowell came out of the wood lines and opened fire, striking their vehicle then rejoined Ragland and fled the scene for the second time.

“The brazen and calculated attempts of these defendants to rob these victims, coupled with the discharge of weapons, demonstrate the seriousness of this crime and the potential consequences to the victims,” said Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.

The FBI joined Albemarle County police in investigating the attempted invasions.

“Law enforcement agencies can most effectively respond to crime when they work in a collaborative fashion,” said Col. Sean Reeves, Albemarle County’s police chief. “Cases like this highlight the success of the coordinated approach that Albemarle County Police Department takes to ensure the safety of the community we serve.”


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