Cline walked in, authorities allege, and a minute later ran out.
“Was actually caught in the act,” prosecutor Arielle Hinton said in a hearing for Cline, who is due back in court March 5.
Meghan Brennan, an attorney for Cline, declined to address the allegations. But as she noted in court, the case is “currently very much in the investigative” phase, and nothing has been proved. Brennan asked that her client be released from custody with a GPS monitor, pending further court proceedings, and indicated that there were medical reasons to do so.
“She is undergoing transitioning as a transgender woman,” Brennan said. “She does undergo hormone treatments.”
Cline also suffers from schizoaffective disorder, Brennan said.
Judge John C. Moffett, citing potential danger to the community, ordered Cline held without bond. She is identified in court records as Christopher Cline.
In the first of the recent incidents, about 1:50 p.m. on Jan. 28, a person walked into the M&T Bank in Gaithersburg, near the corner of Quince Orchard and Clopper roads. Employees would later describe the would-be robber as a man wearing tan pants, a black hat, a black mask, black gloves and a baggy burgundy Washington Football Team jacket.
“Give me money! This is a robbery!” the person told the tellers, according to court records.
The tellers said they had no money to give and saw the person become angry and leave empty-handed. Surveillance video showed the unsuccessful robber climb into a black Malibu, bearing dealership tags, and drive away.
The next afternoon, someone entered a BB&T branch one mile away, on Frederick Avenue, wearing gray pants, a black hat, a white mask, black gloves and a long, black women’s coat. The person walked up to a teller and handed over a note.
“I have a gun this is a robbery,” the note said, according to court records. “Give me all the 20 50 100. No die pack or tracker now no alarm.”
The teller handed over $9,470, and the person fled.
The case presented identification challenges, according to court records, because witness accounts and surveillance images sometimes yielded different gender descriptions of the same perpetrator.
As the investigation continued, a crime analyst at the Gaithersburg Police Department learned that just three months earlier, Christopher Michael Cline had been released from federal prison after serving 15 years for a series of bank robberies. Federal probation records showed that Cline lived within about a mile of both of the recent incidents.
Cline’s stretch in federal prison related to events from 2004, according to an article in The Washington Post, when Cline was linked to at least 11 bank heists in suburban Maryland over one month. Cline allegedly passed tellers notes that implied that Cline had a weapon.
Cline’s stepmother told The Post at the time that Cline had been a “beautiful child” as a youngster and that the family did not know why Cline had been involved in the robberies.
Cline pleaded guilty in federal court and in 2005 was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison, according to court records. Cline was punished as a “career offender” for previous convictions of bank robbery and armed robbery, according to federal and Maryland court records.
After being told of Cline’s past and recent release from prison, a Montgomery County detective drove to the apartment building where Cline lived. He spotted a black Malibu with the dealer tags in the parking lot, according to court records.
Police also saw someone leave Cline’s apartment. They could see only the top of the person’s face, owing to a coronavirus mask, but said in court records that it was enough to appear similar to Cline’s federal probation photo and bank surveillance images.
And it was enough, according to those records, to get an arrest warrant and set up a covert surveillance operation.
About 1:30 p.m. Monday, investigators saw someone leave the apartment, wearing latex gloves and a black jacket similar to what was seen in the BB&T videos, court records state. Cline allegedly climbed into the black Malibu, arriving at the Wells Fargo along Darnestown Road a short time later.
The officers saw Cline run out but held off on trying to stop her in favor of following her further, according to court records. She returned to her apartment building along Clopper Road, where, “following a brief foot pursuit,” the officers arrested her, according to court records.
They searched Cline’s car and found $6,699, believed to be taken from the Wells Fargo, investigators said. In Cline’s apartment, they say, they found the Washington Football Team jacket depicted in video footage from the M&T Bank.