Candice Martinez, the woman accused of being the "cell phone bandit," had her suitcases packed and was ready to flee to Texas or New Mexico with the help of her boyfriend's family when she was arrested in Centreville, an FBI agent testified yesterday.
After her arrest, Martinez was shown a surveillance photograph of a woman robbing a Wachovia bank in Vienna on Oct. 12 while chatting on her cell phone, agent Timothy Pak said. "She identified herself as the bank robber," Pak said during a bond hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
After Pak's testimony, a federal magistrate judge denied bond to Martinez, 19, and sent her case to a grand jury for possible indictment next month. Authorities say Martinez also robbed three other Wachovia banks in Northern Virginia with her boyfriend, Dave C. Williams, 19.
Martinez initially was charged in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, as well as in federal court, but local prosecutors agreed to drop their cases and allow her to be prosecuted federally. So far, Martinez and Williams have been charged only in the Vienna robbery.
During three of the four holdups, surveillance cameras captured the image of a young woman walking alone into a bank, showing a teller a note demanding cash and leaving, chatting on her phone the entire time. Martinez, who is from Santa Fe, and Williams, who grew up in Fairfax, said in statements that they robbed the four banks, according to court records.
Pak testified that Martinez also was shown photos of several types of guns, because the bandit had displayed a gun in her purse during the fourth holdup, in Ashburn on Nov. 4. "That gun looks like the gun I used," Pak quoted Martinez as saying.
By the time Martinez was arrested Nov. 15, Williams was in custody. He also cooperated with investigators, telling them that the pair plotted the four holdups together and that he was on the other end of the cell phone talking to Martinez while she robbed the banks, according to his handwritten statement.
Williams said in his statement that he provided the gun used in the fourth holdup. Hours later, Martinez corroborated that statement, saying Williams obtained the gun from his stepfather, Pak testified yesterday. Authorities recovered the gun after Williams surrendered to them, Pak said.
Martinez also told investigators that the couple planned to flee with the help of Williams's brother, Brian Williams, Pak testified. The agent said that Martinez admitted planning to drive to Texas or New Mexico and that Brian Williams was found to have driving directions from Harrisonburg, Va., to Houston. Pak said that Brian Williams lives in Harrisonburg and that Martinez was checked into a hotel there Nov. 14.
When Martinez was arrested, Pak said, Brian Williams's Nissan Maxima was found nearby with Martinez's packed suitcases inside.
Brian Williams could not be located for comment yesterday, and he previously declined to comment when Pak named him during Dave Williams's preliminary hearing. The brothers' mother, Deo Smith, did not return a phone call. Dave Williams's lawyer, Michael F. Devine, declined to comment.
Authorities estimate that the four robberies netted $48,000. Pak said $2,000 in cash had been recovered, though court records show that police found $3,500 in banded cash in the Chantilly apartment that Martinez and Williams shared.
Pak also said that $1,000 was wired to Martinez's relatives in New Mexico and Nebraska and that $1,000 in cash was found in Brian Williams's Maxima. Investigators have not accounted for $33,000 in stolen money, Pak said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Giles said that Martinez's plans to leave Northern Virginia before her arrest made her a flight risk and that the gun used in one robbery made her a danger to society.
Michael S. Davis, Martinez's lawyer, said the robbery spree was "aberrant behavior for her. She has never been in trouble." He later added that he was not acknowledging Martinez's guilt and that he would challenge the circumstances of her statements to investigators.
Davis told U.S. Magistrate Judge T. Rawles Jones Jr. that if the judge granted bond, Davis would let Martinez live in one of his rental properties and help her find a job. Jones declined to release Martinez.