The cell phone bandit apparently has her first copycat, a man who robbed a bank outside of Richmond this week without putting down his phone, police said yesterday.
Meanwhile, federal and state officials are wrangling over who should prosecute the woman accused of robbing four Northern Virginia banks while chatting on her phone and the boyfriend who allegedly helped her do it.
Loudoun County prosecutors will launch the first case against Candice R. Martinez, 19, who was transferred there from the Fairfax County jail yesterday, with her arraignment in state court today. Her boyfriend, Dave C. Williams, 19, who is accused of acting as her lookout, will have a detention hearing in federal court in Alexandria, where he has been charged.
Martinez, a New Mexico resident who was living in Chantilly while attending Northern Virginia Community College, was charged with robbery in both Fairfax and Loudoun last week. Her arrest came after police received dozens of tips after the nationwide broadcast of surveillance footage from a Nov. 4 holdup in Ashburn.
After she was arrested early Tuesday in Centreville, federal authorities also charged Martinez and Williams with bank robbery for an Oct. 12 holdup in Vienna. Williams told investigators that he was the getaway driver for each holdup and the person talking to Martinez on the cell phone, authorities said.
Martinez also confessed to all four Wachovia robberies, according to court records, and police found $3,500 in cash, still wrapped in Wachovia bands, in her apartment.
On Wednesday, Martinez was taken to the Fairfax jail and arraigned in court on a charge of robbing the Wachovia bank branch in Springfield on Oct. 22. But federal prosecutors, seeking to combine the prosecutions of four holdups in three counties, persuaded Fairfax officials to dismiss their case later Wednesday. Prince William prosecutors also agreed not to file charges for an Oct. 21 holdup in Manassas.
But Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman was not persuaded. Loudoun had filed the first charge, and Plowman said no one had shown him any reason to dismiss his case against Martinez. He also said he was unaware, until informed by a reporter yesterday, that Martinez had been charged in federal court.
Because Loudoun filed its warrant first, it had priority once Fairfax dismissed its charge. So Loudoun authorities sent sheriff's deputies to the Fairfax jail yesterday afternoon to pick up Martinez.
"I expect that she'll be arraigned tomorrow morning and appointed counsel if she qualifies," Plowman said yesterday. He said federal authorities would be able to prosecute Martinez "when we're finished with her."
Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said yesterday that he still is considering filing charges in the Vienna robbery, even after dismissing Fairfax's other case, and had asked to review the police file in the Vienna case.
Meanwhile, the cell phone robbery approach may be spreading. Police in Henrico County, near Richmond, said that a man apparently talking on a cell phone walked into a Wachovia branch there Tuesday morning and handed over a note demanding cash.
As in three of the four Northern Virginia cases, the Henrico robber displayed no weapon and escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash, Henrico Lt. John Coover said.
Earlier Tuesday, photos show the same man walking into a SunTrust bank branch. He was not speaking on a cell phone and did not rob it, Coover said. Police had no suspects yesterday.