Four people were charged Thursday in the armed robbery and rape of two women near Raspberry Island in downtown St. Paul earlier this week.

Vershone J. Hodges, 20, Devontre J. Vann, 19, Deandray A. Easley, 18, and Choncey Stewart, 16, are each charged with first-degree criminal sexual assault, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. The three men are being held in lieu of $500,000 bail and prosecutors are seeking to have Stewart certified as an adult.

"Despite the victims complying with their orders and handing over their valuables, the perpetrators in this case forced the female victims into a car and repeatedly raped them," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "These allegations are brutally horrific and we will prosecute these defendants to the fullest extent of the law as we attempt to achieve justice for the victims, their families and our community."

Hodges, Easley and Stewart are gang members, according to the criminal complaint.

The two women and two male friends were hanging out near Raspberry Island when they were approached by the four defendants about 11:15 p.m. Monday. Somebody in the group believed he knew one of the men and had a short conversation. Stewart cursed at the person and pulled out a silver handgun, demanding he empty his pockets, the complaint said.

Easley ripped one woman's purse off her shoulder, took her car keys and forced the entire group to lie facedown on the pavement. They ransacked the car and took all their cellphones, the complaint said.

One of the men forced several in the group to strip down to their underwear and put a gun in the mouth of one. The victims were then asked if they wanted to die and if it was worth dying over a robbery, the complaint said.

Stewart took the women, both 18, to the car and raped them, the complaint said. Easley asked the victims if the sex was consensual, the complaint said.

The assailants then returned the two young men to the car and threw the car keys into the bushes. Their attackers told the victims that if they left the car to look for the keys or go for help, they would be shot, according to the complaint.

On Tuesday, Hodges and Vann were arrested after a robbery at a SuperAmerica on Robert Street in West St. Paul. When Stewart was arrested, he had one of the women's cellphone in his possession, the complaint said.

Vann, Hodges and Stewart told police the sex was consensual. Easley denied being at the island, the complaint said. The women identified all four defendants from a photo lineup.