CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Three Charlottesville men have pleaded guilty to the attempted violent armed robbery of an Albemarle County man who they believed was in possession of a large amount of marijuana and cash.
Tyreek Saquan Ragland, 24, Madison Wonne Zelee, 26, and Tyrel Anthony Dowell, 22, all pled guilty to their role in an armed home invasion and attempted robbery. 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.
“From day one, I have emphasized that our strategy for combatting violent crime starts with targeted enforcement efforts and building community trust, and this case represents the core of that strategy,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “When a crime like this occurs, it upsets the sense of safety and security that we all feel in our community. By using federal resources to prosecute the most violent offenders in cases like this, we will continue to build that community trust in federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts to address and reduce violent crime.”
“The brazen and calculated attempts of these defendants to rob these victims, coupled with the discharge of weapons, demonstrates the seriousness of this crime and the potential consequences to the victims. The FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate these violent crimes and holding these criminals accountable as we collectively seek justice for the victims,” said Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.
“Law enforcement agencies can most effectively respond to crime when they work in a collaborative fashion,” said Colonel Sean Reeves, Albemarle County Chief of Police. “Cases like this highlights the success of the coordinated approach that Albemarle County Police Department takes to ensure the safety of the community we serve.”
According to court documents, Ragland and his accomplices, Zelee and Dowell, targeted the first victim for robbery because they believed he would be in possession of a large quantity of marijuana and U.S. currency at his home in Albemarle County.
On the afternoon of September 30, 2021, Zelee knocked on the intended victim’s front door and employed a ruse designed to gain entry by claiming he had lost his dog and needed to find it. Dowell, wearing a ski mask, was then seen walking from the woods towards the residence, at which point the intended victim refused to open the front door. Zelee and Dowell fled the scene in the getaway vehicle driven by Ragland.
Shortly after this confrontation, the intended victim notified his father of the incident, who then joined him to search for the vehicle in which Ragland, Zelee, and Dowell had fled.
While father and son were out searching, a witness who had remained at the intended victim’s residence called them to report a pizza delivery person was at the house trying to deliver a pizza. Well aware that no pizza order had been placed, the intended victim instructed the witness not to open the door and immediately returned home. When he arrived, the intended victim observed a vehicle parked along the side of the road near his home that matched the one seen earlier occupied by the defendants.
Upon hearing that the pizza delivery man was adamant that someone had placed a pizza order for that address, the intended victim became concerned that the suspicious individuals from the vehicle parked along the street may now be hiding in the woods again.
Sensing danger, father and son decided to leave again and had entered their car when Zelee and Dowell came out of the wood line and began shooting at them, striking their vehicle. After the gunfire, Zelee and Dowell rejoined Ragland and fled the scene for the second time.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Albemarle County Police Department are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald M. Huber is prosecuting the case.