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Robbers ransack home, take money, jewelry, Christmas presents

DATELINE: MERRILL, Wis. - December 12, 2000, Tuesday

Members of a family who were tied up and robbed of money, jewelry and even Christmas presents included a civic leader who was active in causes to help Southeast Asian refugees, authorities said Tuesday.

"It's probably the worst criminal damage to property in a home that I've ever seen," Merrill Police Chief Neil Strobel said.

The victim, Abraham Vang, is the executive director of programs at Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association, Lt. Ned Seubert said. Among items taken from his home was an undetermined "substantial" amount of cash, gold bars and thousands of dollars worth of gold and diamond jewelry, Seubert said.

Many older Hmong people do not believe in keeping money in U.S. banks and that is well-known in the Asian community, Seubert said.

The four suspects in the robbery are Asian and the victims did not know any of them, he said.

"Somehow, they must have known he had wealth. That is one angle we are investigating is how did they know it," Seubert said. "The motive is definitely money or valuables in the house."

Peter Yang, chief operating officer of the Hmong Association, said there have been other break-ins by Southeast Asian gangs targeting Hmong families who live in rural areas or have isolated homes.

Vang, 54, has been a prominent member of the Wausau community for more than a decade and led a local group to Washington, D.C., last spring to support legislation that expedites citizenship for Lao veterans of the Vietnam War, Yang said.

Three males knocked on the door at Vang's home shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, police said. Vang, his wife, Yer Cha Vang, 52, and their 7-year-old son were bound at their hands and feet at gunpoint, Seubert said.

The robbers demanded to know where money was hidden, leading the house to be ransacked, including turning over furniture, removing drawers from desks, pulling tiles off the ceiling and emptying closets, Seubert said.

Food was thrown around and water and liquor was poured on Mrs. Vang, Seubert said.

Vang was beaten while he was bound on the floor, suffering broken ribs and severe bruising to one eye, Seubert said.

The robbers were in the home about an hour before also stealing the family's mini-van, the investigator said.

From damage inside the home, it appears vengeance was part of the attack, Seubert said. "I don't know if I would go as far as calling it a hate crime at this time. It is Asians attacking Asians."

Police are looking for a 1991 Ford Aerostar minivan with the license plate MVP386 and a black, newer, sportier car that the suspects arrived in.

Police are trying to replace the family's Christmas presents, Strobel said. "We're getting a list from the mother and we're trying to duplicate the Christmas packages," he said.