Craig Pleads Guilty to Bank Robberies

Craig Pleads Guilty to Bank Robberies

Until last December, William Paul Craig was a law-abiding father of four, active in his church and well-regarded in his community. But when financial problems hit, he chose to solve them by robbing banks.

He struck banks in Centreville, Fair Oaks and Reston before being caught. And Tuesday morning in Fairfax County Circuit Court — in front of his wife and relatives — he pleaded guilty to two of the heists. Charges in the third robbery were dropped, as part of his plea agreement.

"Are you entering these pleas freely and voluntarily?" asked Judge Kathleen MacKay. "Yes, ma'am," replied Craig, 35, of 7424 Rossville Blvd. in Roseland, Md. "Are you entering [them] because you are, indeed, guilty as charged?" Again, he answered "yes."

Before accepting his pleas, MacKay made sure he understood that he could receive five years to life imprisonment on each charge. Then Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell presented the evidence against him.

SHE STATED that, on Dec. 26, 2003, [around 1:30 p.m.], Craig went to the BB&T Bank in the Fairfax Towne Center in Fair Oaks. "He watched outside the bank for several hours before entering," she said. "When he went inside, he presented a note to the teller that said, 'I have a gun. Give me the money. Be quiet.'"

One of the tellers, a 54-year-old Manassas woman, gave him "several thousand dollars," said Mitchell, and he left. A week later, he struck a second bank.

On Jan. 2, around 1 p.m., Craig went to a BB&T Bank in the North Point Village Center in Reston. "He first scoped out the bank before entering," said Mitchell. "Then he handed the teller, [a 40-year-old Reston woman], a note saying something to the effect of "Quiet. Hold up. Put money in paper.'"

"He then placed a newspaper on the counter," continued Mitchell. "The teller put the money on the newspaper, and [Craig] left with about $4,200. On Jan. 9, he did the exact same thing at the Bank of America in Centreville and got $16,000 cash."

"He robbed another bank, after the other ones?" asked the judge, in amazement. "Yes, Your Honor," answered Mitchell. "He did this three consecutive weeks."

Craig walked into that bank, at 14122 Lee Highway in the Newgate Shopping Center, around 1 p.m., and showed the teller a note demanding money. He also implied that he had a gun, so the teller complied with his request.

"But this time, there was a lookout for a red, Chevy Astro van that was spotted at the scene of all three robberies," said Mitchell. A police officer from the Sully District Station saw the van on I-66 west and pulled it over. Police identified the driver as Craig and arrested him, charging him with all three bank robberies.

"Inside the van were black gloves and a newspaper containing a large stack of money," said Mitchell. She said Craig made a "detailed confession" to the police, his fingerprint was found on a note and his boot print matched one found in one of the banks. And she said he identified the camouflage jacket he'd worn during the robberies and also identified himself in video stills from the banks' surveillance cameras.

MACKAY THEN found Craig guilty as charged and set his sentencing for Sept. 3. Then Mitchell made a motion to revoke his $15,000 bond and send him immediately to jail. "These were premeditated, deliberate acts, not one random, hazy act," she said. "They may be out of character for him, since he has no criminal record, but these were very serious acts."

Arguing in favor of the bond, defense attorney James Toohey explained that his client has four children under 8 years old and "did something extraordinarily outside of his character." But he said it was because Craig had lost his job and had "numerous financial difficulties."

He said Craig's undergoing pastoral and psychological counseling and was diagnosed with clinical depression. "He's involved with a recovery group in his church and is in a pastoral mentoring group," said Toohey. "He works with the church's youth group and with a men's accountability group."

He said Craig's family is supportive and he's working now and "will be able to prepare his family's financial security better [if he's out on bond, working, the next four months before sentencing]." Added Toohey: "This is his first offense."

But, countered Mitchell, "These offenses were very jarring to the community, and the defendant had four kids when he committed these offenses. At this point, he needs to start taking responsibility and start serving time on [them]."

Agreeing with her on the severity of the crimes, MacKay ruled against Craig, saying, "I'm going to remand you to the custody of the sheriff." Then, in front of his family, the bailiff handcuffed him and led him to jail.