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Cell-Phone Bandit Pleads Guilty

Springfield Wachovia Bank one of robbers' targets.

Like most teens, Candice Rose Martinez of Chantilly used to be able to chat with friends and family on her cell phone whenever she liked. But unlike most teens, she also used her phone to talk with her boyfriend/partner-in-crime while robbing four Wachovia banks, according to police.

Soon dubbed the "cell-phone bandit," she was arrested in mid-November by local police and federal agents.

Last Tuesday, Dec. 13, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Martinez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a bank robbery. The latter offense alone carries a mandatory minimum term of seven years in prison.

MARTINEZ, 19, of Spring Pond Place in the Shenandoah Crossing apartments, garnered national notoriety after bank surveillance photos caught her in the act — receiving money from bank tellers while seeming to carry on a phone conversation.

Dave Chatram Williams, 19, of the same address, later admitted to waiting outside each bank with the getaway car. And for awhile, they did get away — going on a spending spree, which authorities say amounted to $48,620.

But they didn't spend it all. During a Nov. 12 search of Martinez' apartment, Fairfax County police found $3,500 in cash — $1,500 in $50 bills and $2,500 in $100 bills. Each stack of money was still bound by Wachovia bands.

But a good portion of what they took was spent on a 1997 Acura Integra, a Sony large-screen television, a 42-inch Sylvania plasma flat-screen television, two CD/DVD players and a four-piece bedroom set from IKEA, Williams told authorities.

The search of Martinez' apartment yielded a Louis Vuitton purse, a woman's black leather jacket, a Circuit City receipt for $3,685, a computer, a printer and a digital camera. Police also seized a T-Mobile cell-phone box.

The four Wachovia banks were in Springfield and Vienna in Fairfax County, in Manassas in Prince William County and in Ashburn in Loudoun County. The robberies occurred at these branches: Oct. 12, at 212 E. Maple Ave., Vienna; Oct. 21, at 8441 Sudley Road, Manassas; Oct. 22, at 7030 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield; and Nov. 4, at 43780 Parkhurst Plaza, Ashburn.

Martinez is from Santa Fe, N.M., and she and Williams met at Northern Virginia Community College where both were students. Williams used to work at a Wachovia Bank.

On Dec. 1, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Williams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Williams could receive as much as life in prison when he's sentenced Feb. 24.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, Martinez was arraigned on these charges in federal court and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a bank robbery, in exchange for the four other charges being dismissed.

She also agreed to pay a special assessment of $200 and, together with Williams, make restitution for the full amount of the bank's loss. In addition, she and Williams both agreed to forfeit all interests they have in the items they bought with their bank-robbery proceeds.

In addition to the Acura Integra and the televisions, they also purchased a Panasonic surround-sound speaker system, as well as some designer clothing, including two North Face jackets, two North Face coats, four Louis Vuitton purses, two pair of Nike shoes, Guess jeans, Baby Phat tops, three pair of Bamboo boots and a pink Christian Dior scarf.

According to the Statement of Facts issued by the prosecution, "A few days before Oct. 12, Martinez and Williams agreed to rob the Wachovia Bank branch in Vienna. The two of them composed a demand note and typed it using his computer and printer. The note threatened [that] the teller or someone next to him or her [would get shot] if the teller failed to surrender the money."

Then on Oct. 12, Martinez walked into the Vienna branch, carrying a box to which the demand note was fixed. This robbery yielded $14,480.

A similar scenario occurred Oct. 21 at the Manassas branch, with Martinez and Williams driving away with $3,240. And on Oct. 22, at the Springfield branch, Martinez again robbed the bank and drove off with Williams plus $6,000.

During the Nov. 4 armed robbery of the Wachovia Bank in Ashburn's Parkhurst Plaza. There, she came inside the bank with a .38-caliber revolver Williams had given her, showed it to the teller and made off with $24,700.

The Statement of Facts tells that, "Before the bank robberies described above, Martinez and Williams agreed on the roles each would play in committing the robberies. ... The actions of each were done knowingly, intentionally, unlawfully and not as a result of accident, mistake or other innocent reason."

After accepting her guilty pleas Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee set Martinez' sentencing for March 3. The conspiracy charge carries a possible maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of brandishing a firearm during a robbery is punishable by as much as life in prison.