Feds Come Calling For 'Cell Phone' Bandit

Feds Come Calling For 'Cell Phone' Bandit

She captured the fancy of the American public by robbing banks while talking on a cell phone. But now the authorities have captured her and, if their prosecution of the Chantilly teen goes as planned, she probably won't have to worry about "roaming charges" for quite awhile.

That's because Candice Rose Martinez, 19, of 4001 Spring Pond Place in the Shenandoah Crossing apartments, is now facing at least one federal charge of bank robbery and, if convicted, she could receive as much as 20 years in prison.

HER BOYFRIEND, Dave Chatram Williams, 19, of the same address, was charged Monday, Nov. 14, with the same offense. The FBI says they've both 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.

"According to Martinez, she and Williams planned each of the bank robberies and Williams drove the getaway car in each robbery," wrote FBI Special Agent Timothy Pak in his affidavit in support of a criminal complaint charging her with bank robbery. "Williams ... admitted his involvement with Martinez in each of the four robberies."

Although Fairfax and Loudoun filed their charges first, all the cases against the pair are now being turned over to the federal government and will be played out in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Fairfax County police and the Loudoun Sheriff's Office each charged Martinez on Tuesday, Nov. 15, with one count of robbery, and she was held without bond in Fairfax's Adult Detention Center.

She was slated for arraignment Wednesday morning in Fairfax's court. But the U.S. Marshal's Service placed a detainer on her, so it was cancelled. Instead, said spokeswoman Debbie Weierman of the FBI's Washington Field Office, the state charges would be dropped so the feds can take over.

"It's just a formality to have her remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service," she said Wednesday. "Everything will go over to the federal charges because of the nature of it being a serial robbery."

Weierman said U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty of the Eastern District of Virginia made the decision to prosecute Martinez and Williams on a federal level. She said Martinez was expected to make her first court appearance in Alexandria on Wednesday afternoon.

Sam Dibbley, U.S. District Court spokeswoman, said Williams has been incarcerated in Alexandria's jail and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday afternoon to see if bond will be allowed in his case.

The four bank robberies were at the following Wachovia branches: Oct. 12, 212 E. Maple Ave., Vienna; Oct. 21, 8441 Sudley Road, Manassas; Oct. 22, 7030 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield; and Nov. 4, 43780 Parkhurst Plaza, Ashburn. Fairfax charged Martinez with the Springfield heist, and Loudoun charged her with the robbery in Ashburn.

"OURS WAS the first time she used a firearm in the commission of a felony," said Loudoun Sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell. "She opened a purse and showed a weapon, so that escalated her crime."

In a Nov. 12 affidavit for a warrant to search for possible evidence in Martinez' Chantilly apartment, Fairfax County police robbery Det. James Williams, of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, detailed the case against her. He said six Wachovia employees were working at the time of the Springfield bank robbery, and several customers were present, when the as-yet-unknown suspect entered the lobby.

"The suspect was on her cellular phone as she approached the teller," he wrote. "The suspect placed a box on the counter, with a note that appeared to be computer generated, attached to the box. The note stated, 'You have 40 seconds to put all your money in the box. Do not make any sudden moves.'"

Then, according to the detective, the woman said, "' Put all $100s and $50 dollar bills in the box,' adding, 'You're taking too long; you have 40 seconds. I need you to empty all the drawers — you have three." The teller did so and — giving a whole, new meaning to the phrase "cash and carry," the woman left the bank with the boxful of money.

Afterward, Fairfax robbery Det. William Swartwout interviewed the teller who, wrote Det. Williams, noticed a picture in a Prince William County newspaper, the Potomac News, of a woman suspected of robbing the Wachovia bank in Manassas, the day before.

"'That's her,'" he told Swartwout, according to the affidavit. Then last Saturday, Nov. 12, Loudoun Investigator J.W. Russ told Det. Williams that he was investigating a similar bank robbery in Ashburn, where "the subject displayed a handgun in her purse."

Det. Williams further stated that a confidential informant contacted him after seeing a TV news broadcast, Friday, Nov. 11, showing bank surveillance-tape, video photos of a female bank robber in Northern Virginia. The informant said he/she knew the suspect's identity and provided the detective with a photograph of her.

Swartwout and Det. Williams then showed the informant a photograph of the suspect obtained from surveillance-camera footage from the Wachovia bank in Ashburn. And according to the affidavit, the informant said it was the same person and identified her as Martinez.

ALSO IN November, wrote Det. Williams, a "concerned citizen" advised officers at the West Springfield District Police Station that he/she also saw the Nov. 11 broadcast and knew the suspect to be Martinez. In addition, a flood of tips poured in after Fairfax County police issued a Nov. 10 press release stating they believed the same person was responsible for all four bank robberies.

"We got over 30 tips on the Crime Solvers line," said spokeswoman Mary Mulrenan. "The detectives started sorting through them, did a little research, started putting things together and eventually concluded that the person they were looking for was Martinez."

The case received national exposure, as well, airing on CNN, MSNBC and even the TV show, "America's Most Wanted." Meanwhile, the FBI became involved. In his affidavit, Pak described the robbery at Wachovia's Vienna branch. He described how a young woman with dark hair walked into that bank — "a federally insured financial institution — Oct. 12, carrying a box and talking on a cell phone.

"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," wrote Pak. "The teller, fearing that she might be harmed, gave the woman the money ... and the woman left. A later inventory of the teller's station disclosed that it was short approximately $14,700."

Authorities say Martinez was talking to her boyfriend on her cell phone during the robberies. The FBI couldn't disclose what led them to Dave Williams, but agents from the Washington Field Office, Fairfax County police and Loudoun Sheriff's personnel arrested him jointly, Monday evening, Nov. 14, at his mother's apartment on Lee Highway in Fairfax. The FBI charged him with the Vienna bank robbery.

Martinez was apprehended Tuesday at 3:40 a.m. A lookout was broadcast at 2 a.m. for a gray, Nissan Maxima with a particular license number. An hour or so later, FBI Agent Ron Chavarro spotted it parked in front of a home on Picket Oaks Road in Centreville's Centre Ridge community.

"Two men were in the vehicle, and the FBI agent took them out at gunpoint and called for backup," said Mulrenan. "Fairfax County police officers came and surrounded the house ... and they came out peacefully."

WEIERMAN SAID Chavarro drew his weapon because the FBI believed Martinez "could have been in the car. She had access to a gun, so she was considered 'armed and dangerous' and we had to take precautions." Martinez exited the house with seven other people, but Weierman said neither they, nor the people in the car, were arrested. She didn't know of any relationship they had to Martinez.

She said Martinez was from Santa Fe, N.M., and was enrolled in college here. She attended NOVA's Annandale campus. As for her boyfriend, the FBI says he was a former Wachovia employee. Pak wrote that both suspects admitted to robbing all four banks together.

And during a Nov. 12 search of Martinez' apartment, Fairfax County police seized items including: A Louis Vuitton purse, T-Mobile cell-phone box, a woman's black leather jacket, a Circuit City receipt for $3,685, a computer, printer, digital camera and two stacks of cash — (30) $50-bills and (20) $100-bills, each bound by Wachovia bands.