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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Five dollars worth of change and a cell phone have landed three U.S. teens in Japanese custody and prompted an apology from the base commander to Yokosuka’s mayor.

The base dependents — males aged 16, 17 and 18 — remained in police custody as of Tuesday after being arrested individually on Friday and Saturday for allegedly robbing a 38-year-old Japanese man, an Uraga police spokesman said Tuesday.

The arrests led base commander Capt. Daniel Weed to visit the mayor Monday and express his regrets, base spokeswoman Michelle Stewart said.

Meanwhile, police forwarded robbery charges against the teens to the local prosecutor’s office Monday, the Uraga police spokesman said.

Under Japanese law, anyone under age 20 is considered a minor.

The prosecutor will make a recommendation and forward the charges to family court, which will decide whether to pursue charges, Japanese officials said.

The three teens approached the man near Keikyu Otsu station, three stops south of Yokosuka Chuo station, at about 7:30 p.m. on July 8, officials said.

The teens allegedly held the man’s mouth and body while stealing about 500 yen, a change purse and a cell phone, the total which was worth about $40, the police spokesman said.

Police said the teens were shown on videotape running from the scene.

They were arrested after coming to the police station voluntarily for questioning, police said.

There is no pending administrative action against the teens, Stewart said. While base civilians cannot be charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they are subject to administrative action, which can result in being barred from base in serious cases.

The status of forces agreement does not make any distinction between juveniles and adults in regard to alleged crimes on Japanese soil, Stewart said.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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