Three men charged in recent spate of D.C. area bank robberies

Federal prosecutors have charged three men who they say robbed an Arlington bank on New Year’s Eve — not knowing FBI agents were watching them as suspects in a spate of recent bank holdups.

The men were arrested just a block from the Wells Fargo bank on George Mason Drive by police and FBI agents who were ready for the most recent robbery, and investigators found a Glock pistol and lots of cash on them and in their car, according to an affidavit made public Thursday. The three — James McNeal, 63, of Hyattsville, Md.; James Link, 56, of, D.C.; and Alphonso Stoddard, 59, of Forest Heights, Md. — have been charged with armed bank robbery, authorities said.

FBI Special Agent Rachel Taylor Wolford wrote in court papers that even before the trio robbed the Wells Fargo on New Year’s Eve, a confidential informant had linked them to at least four other area bank robberies or attempted bank robberies in recent months: the Oct. 29 robbery of a Wells Fargo in Rockville, the Oct. 30 robbery of a Bank of Georgetown in Vienna, the Nov. 25 robbery of a different Wells Fargo in Arlington and the Dec. 10 robbery of a TD Bank in Northeast D.C.

At least one of the men generally showed a gun during the incidents, sometimes ordering customers and employees to the ground and in one case throwing an 82-year-old woman to the ground, according to the FBI affidavit. The men stole tens of thousands of dollars in total, the affidavit said.

Federal authorities were tipped off to the trio by a confidential informant in mid-December and began surveilling them — even watching as they seemed to scout two banks in Arlington on Dec. 27, according to the affidavit. On New Year’s Eve, a SWAT team had been pre-positioned near the Wells Fargo, authorities said.

After they were taken into custody, Link and Stoddard admitted to participating in some of the robberies, according to the affidavit.

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Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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