Brothers admit to Ellendale home invasion
Two brothers have admitted their guilt to multiple violent home invasion robberies around the state, including at least one in Steele County.
On June 18, Lennie Dwayne Brooks, 33, of Zumbro Falls, and Randy Lorenzo Brooks, 24, of Wabasha, entered guilty pleas to three counts each of interference with commerce by robbery, known as the Hobbs Act. They made their pleas in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis before Senior Judge David S. Doty.
Prior to the brothers pleading guilty, Autumn Marie Nichols, 20, and Esperanza Cardenas, 29, each pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting interference with commerce by robbery on May 14.
The brothers broke into a private residence in Berlin Township near Ellendale on Sept. 23. Randy Brooks held two victims at gunpoint while Lennie Brooks searched the house for money and valuables. They stole approximately $40,000 in cash, which was the business proceeds of Holland Auction Company. Cardenas waited in the area in the getaway car.
Two other home invasions took place before and after the Ellendale robbery. On Aug. 16, Lennie and Randy broke into a private residence in Waite Park where they held two victims at gunpoint. They stole about $180,000 in jewelry and gemstones, which belonged to Trisko Jewelry in Waite Park.
On Oct. 6, the brothers broke into a private residence in Eden Prairie while Nichols waited in the getaway car. Lennie and Randy stole about $50,000 in cash, which was the business proceeds of the Shuang Hur Asian Markets in Minneapolis and St. Paul. During that robbery, one of the victims went into cardiac arrest and died with neither of the brothers calling for medical help nor was the second victim allowed to call for help. The brothers later admitted that the victim who went into cardiac arrest died as a direct result of the home invasion.
“These criminals admitted to a string of violent home invasions that ended in the tragic and senseless loss of life,” said Erica MacDonald, U.S. Attorney. “Small business owners should never have to fear for their lives or the safety of their property, especially in their own homes.”
MacDonald commends the collaborative efforts of the many law enforcement agencies, including the Steele County Sheriff’s Office, involved in the case that led to the guilty pleas. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to clearing the streets of violent criminals and ensuring the safety of all Minnesotans,” she said.
Acting Special Agent in Charge Kirk Howard of the ATF St. Paul Field Division said authorities are satisfied to see these men take responsibility for their actions. “The fear they instilled in the lives of small business owners was ruthless, excessive and intolerable,” Howard said. “Hopefully, this guilty plea and future sentencing can bring closure to the families and communities affected,” he added.
Howard said he is proud of the exceptional work put into this investigation, successfully ending the Brooks brothers’ hostile home invasion streak. “The strong partnerships with local law enforcement contributed greatly to this accomplishment, and we are grateful for their efforts,” he said.
The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, prohibits actual or attempted robbery affecting interstate or foreign commerce “in any way or degree.”
The Brooks brothers’ are also believed to have been involved in a robbery last August in Lemond Township southwest of Owatonna. During that robbery, they broke into the home and stole cash and jewelry. The Lemond robbery, however, was not specifically included in last week’s guilty pleas.
The Steele County Sheriff’s Office investigated both home invasions.
Among the other local agencies involved in the multi-jurisdictional investigation were Owatonna Police, Albert Lea Police and the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, an initiative that brings together federal, state and local law enforcement to combat violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.