Could this happen to you??




Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A string of robbery, burglary and assault charges have been filed against three 17-year-olds in connection with what is described as a violent home invasion at a Dover mobile home Sunday evening.

Two 18-year-olds were expected to be charged in adult court later this morning.

The three teens -- Benjamin James Weidendorf of Plainview, Thomas Vilai of Rochester and My Hoang Tran of Rochester were arraigned in juvenile court Tuesday afternoon. Judge Robert Birnbaum ordered them held in secure detention pending their next court hearing Jan. 14.

All three are charged with four counts of first-degree aggravated robbery, two counts of first-degree burglary and four counts of second-degree assault. In addition, Vilai is charged with illegally being in possession of a pistol or assault weapon and possession of machine guns or short-barreled shotguns. All are felonies.

Prosecutor Karen Arthurs has moved to have Vilai tried in adult court and a certification study was ordered by the judge. She told Birnbaum that she would make a decision about motions in the other two cases within a few days.

The charges stem from a home invasion reported about 8:45 p.m. Sunday at a mobile home just outside of Dover where a 20-year-old man was inside with three friends.

The victim told authorities he heard someone pounding on the door and opened it because he was expecting some friends. He said he was greeted by a sawed-off shotgun pointed at his head and was ordered to back up. Three other males, who had their faces covered, and a female, entered the residence. The victim said the other suspects, armed with baseball bats and a knife, ran through the home taking items. In the meantime, he said, the male with the gun ordered him and his friends to empty their pockets and give them everything they had. He said the suspects took cell phones, money, bottles of liquor, a digital camera, some marijuana and a flat-screen television. He said just before the suspects left, they were pushing the victims around with the bats and one suspect was waving the knife.

A neighbor called 911 after seeing a car pull up in front of the neighbor's home and five to six people get out. The neighbor noticed they were wearing hoods and had masks over their faces and that one person had a gun. He gave authorities a description of the vehicle, which was later seen in St. Charles. A city police officer followed the vehicle and was joined by county sheriff officers. The vehicle was stopped and the driver was identified as Weidendorf. Authorities recovered a baseball bat, three red and one black bandannas, two pairs of gloves, the television, cell phones, a folding lock-blade knife and other items.

The investigation led to the identity of the other suspects. Weidendorf told investigators he got a phone call from the others asking if he wanted to "do a deal and make some money,'' the complaint said. They met in Elgin and drove to St. Charles where they left a second vehicle at a storage unit. They all got into Weidendorf's car and drove to the scene where Weidendorf said he was given a black bandana and told to put it on. He said the others were swearing red bandanas and the female, Tran, was not wearing a bandana. He said Vilai had the shotgun. He said he and Tran and knives and two others had baseball bats. After the incident, they fled and returned to the storage building in St. Charles. The complaint said Vilai threw the shotgun onto the storage building and other items were left at the scene.