Federal Agents Raid St. Charles Home by Mistake Informer Told ATF That House Was Center of Illegal Guns Ring

Article excerpt

The police informer seemed to know all about it: A large cache of machine guns and other firearms hidden in a suburban home in St. Charles County that was a major distribution point for illegal weapons.

In a sworn affidavit to federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents, the informer described how he had bought and sold weapons with people living in the house.

The result: more than a dozen heavily armed law officers in black, SWAT uniforms burst into the home Tuesday night and held the couple at g unpoint, turning the house upside down in a search for illegal weapons.

There was one problem: The informer had made it up.

There were no guns in the home and never had been. The family who lives there was innocent.

ATF admits raiding the wrong house but blames the informer.

"It's amazing to me that he didn't think we'd ever find out," Daniel Hoggatt, special agent in charge of the St. Louis field office of the ATF, said Wednesday.

Even more amazing to the couple who own the home was that ATF and the police didn't find out sooner.

"For the first 30 seconds, I thought they were burglars and I was going to die," said Patty Mueller.

"If they could do this to us, they could do this to anybody," she said.

Here's the Muellers' story:

Patty, 35, and Paul Mueller, 38, live with their sons, 6 and 2, at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac on Country Lane Court in unincorporated St. Charles County. For two years, they've owned their two-story home, on a half-acre lot in the Timberwood Trails subdivision.

Paul is a self-employed painting contractor; Patty is a human resources director for an electronics chain.

Their contacts with the law consist of traffic tickets. They don't have so much as a BB gun in the house.

"We're your basic dorky family who goes to soccer games and hangs out with their kids," Patty says.

At about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Muellers had finished putting their boys to bed. Patty was writing birthday party invitations for the couple's youngest son.

That's when more than a dozen men in black garb kicked open a door and pointed guns at the couple.

They had entered through an unlocked outside garage door. Once inside, instead of turning a handle to open the door to the kitchen, they kicked in the door, breaking the frame, the couple said.

Kelly, the family dog, became frantic, and agents threatened to shoot her, the couple said. Agents ordered Patty to lock the dog in a bathroom. Then they told Patty to sit on a couch.

What she saw next was men in the foyer pointing guns at her husband; he lay on the floor, his hands restrained by a plastic wrap. …