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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Horse and Buggy Crime: Robbing The Amish

Indiana

     Michelle Rodriguez lived in Berne, Indiana, a town of 4,000 35 miles south of Fort Wayne. The 42-year-old resided with her three teenage sons. In September 2012, Rodriguez informed her boys that she couldn't travel to Fort Wayne to buy cocaine because she had run out of money. (And probably food stamps as well.) To solve the problem, she asked her sons to climb into her faded green Chevy Malibu and drive the rural roads in the area's Amish country looking for buggies to pull over and Amish people to rob.

     The teenagers piled into the old car equipped with gas masks and baseball bats. Within a span of two hours they pulled over four buggies occupied by a total of five Amish persons. Four of the robbery victims were woman accompanied by children.

     Shortly after the buggy heists police officers took the mastermind and her sons into custody. In April 2013 Michelle Rodriguez and her boys pleaded guilty to robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and criminal confinement. The judge sentenced the mother to 15 years in prison. Her 18-year-old son, Alezandro Lopez, received a 6-year sentence. The two juvenile defendants got off with probation.

Tennessee

     In southern Tennessee along the Alabama boarder, Lawrence County is home to a growing Amish enclave that has become a tourist attraction. On April 18, 2014, three men drove into Waterfork Park where they robbed an Amish man at gunpoint. A short time later, a few miles away, the same criminals held up a second Amish person.

     That night, as police officers conducted an investigation at the scene of the second robbery, they spotted the suspects' car as it sped by following a hit-and-run incident with another Amish buggy.

     The police chase that followed resulted in the arrest of three men in their thirties from the nearby towns of Lawrenceburg and Ethridge. A local prosecutor charged the three suspects with aggravated robbery. Their cases are pending.

Michigan

     Gladwin and Clare Counties in rural, central Michigan are homes to a growing settlement of old-order Amish. In this community, a man armed with a shotgun, from May 22 to June 4, 2014, committed a string of late night hold-ups of Amish people riding in their buggies on the area's rural roads.

     Detectives with the Michigan State Police believe that several Amish victims have not reported being robbed. (Many Amish people are reluctant to get involved with the authorities.) In an effort to identify the lone bandit, police officers asked members of the Amish community to come forward if they have any clues regarding the identify of the robber. In addition, Crime Stoppers posted a $1,000 reward in the case. The crimes remain unsolved.

Pennsylvania

     At 12:30 in the morning of Monday August 25, 2014, a masked gunman driving a white minivan robbed an Amish man of $11 in a park in Intercourse, a town in the heart of eastern Pennsylvania's massive Amish community. Ten minutes following that crime, the robber struck again in East Lampeter Township five miles outside the town of Lancaster. In the second heist, the gunman in the minivan forced an Amish buggy occupied by three people off a rural road. The robber jumped out of the vehicle, pointed a handgun at the victims, and demanded money.

      The three Amish victims facing the barrel of the robber's weapon tossed their wallets out of the buggy onto the road. As the robber turned his back on the victims to retrieve one of the wallets, the driver of the buggy drove it into an adjacent field. The robber, unable to negotiate the rough terrain in his van, drove off.

     The police in Pennsylvania's largest Amish community have not identified this robber.




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