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Cell-Phone Bandit Faces Federal Trial

In a case that changes faster than you can say, "Can you hear me now?", accused cell-phone bank-robber Candice Rose Martinez of Chantilly will now be tried in federal court.

LAST WEEK, Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman said he wanted to try her in his jurisdiction first. But then he changed his mind and decided to drop Loudoun's charge against Martinez and let the federal government prosecute her, instead.

Martinez, 19, of 4001 Spring Pond Place in the Shenandoah Crossing apartments, attracted national attention for allegedly robbing four banks while talking on a cell phone. But bank surveillance photos captured her in action and, soon, authorities had her number.

In mid-November, they charged both her and her boyfriend, Dave Chatram Williams, 19, of the same address, with bank robbery. He reportedly admitted driving the getaway car and talking with Martinez while she was busy inside the banks making unauthorized withdrawals.

According to the FBI, the pair confessed to robbing four Wachovia banks — in Springfield and Vienna in Fairfax County, in Manassas in Prince William County and in Ashburn in Loudoun County. She's originally from Santa Fe, N.M., and they'd met at Northern Virginia Community College, where both were students.

The robberies were at the following 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.

On Nov. 14, the FBI charged Williams with the Vienna bank robbery and subsequently charged Martinez with that crime, too. And on Nov. 15, Fairfax County police charged Martinez with the Springfield stickup. That same day, the Loudoun Sheriff's Office charged her with the Ashburn offense — during which she allegedly displayed a gun in her purse.

In his affidavit in support of a criminal complaint charging Martinez with bank robbery, FBI Special Agent Timothy Pak described the robbery at Wachovia's Vienna branch.

He noted that a young woman entered that bank, Oct. 12, carrying a box and talking on a cell phone. Then, he wrote, "She moved directly to the teller counter and displayed the shoebox-size box, which had a note taped on it demanding $75,000 in cash."

However, at Williams' combined preliminary and detention hearing, Nov. 18, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Pak testified that — unlike what he'd written in the affidavit — the note didn't ask for $75,000 but, instead, told the teller to fork over the cash or he or she would be shot.

HE ALSO said Martinez and Williams garnered $48,000 for the four robberies. And a note written by Williams and introduced into evidence stated that Martinez was speaking to him on her cell phone during the robberies and, during the Ashburn bank heist, she showed the teller a .38-caliber gun that he'd given her.

Martinez' preliminary hearing was Tuesday, Nov. 29, in that same court, before Magistrate Judge T. Rawles Jones Jr. At that time, he found probable cause to believe she's guilty of bank robbery as charged and certified her case to the grand jury for possible indictment.

Furthermore, after the prosecutor called Martinez a flight risk and a danger to the community, he refused to release her on bond, so she will remain incarcerated until her trial. Similarly, also considering Williams a flight risk, Magistrate Judge Barry R. Poretz on Nov. 18 denied him bond, as well.