A bank robbery suspect in Northern Virginia who appears on security video to be a young, smartly-dressed woman is really an experienced criminal with ties to the MS-13 gang, public records show.
The suspect, 26-year-old Stephanie L. Schwab, of Manassas, has a criminal record dating to 2003 when she was found guilty of driving with a suspended license and includes at least 10 charges, some as serious as grand larceny and battery.
Ms. Schwab first made headlines in 2005 when she testified in U.S. District Court against members of MS-13 — a violent Central American gang that's gained traction in Virginia — for the murder of 17-year-old Brenda Paz, her roommate of several weeks.
In her six-hour-long testimony, Ms. Schwab outlined how her former gang used code words to discuss police, meetings and directives, including use of the phrase "green lighting" for the murder of fellow members.
Ms. Schwab recently resurfaced when she was identified committing a series of crimes that began Nov. 18 with the robbery of a bank in Prince William County. Police say she continued a three-day crime spree the following afternoon by stealing a 2003 Acura at knifepoint near Tysons Corner II shopping mall and on Tuesday robbing the BB&T bank in the 8300 block of Old Keene Mill Road.
The video appears to show Ms. Schwab pulling off the second heist in black boots, a plaid pea coat and a scarf wrapped around her neck, her light brown hair pulled tightly into a bun.
Police said Ms. Schwab demanded money from the teller and threatened her with a concealed weapon.
"She may very well be armed," said Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell. "She did produce a knife at the carjacking."
Ms. Caldwell said the agency does not comment on suspects' criminal history but acknowledged Ms. Schwab is wanted in connection with at least three serious crimes and there is the "probability" she might attempt another.
"She's been in the area," Ms. Caldwell said. "We have two warrants for her, and Prince William has a warrant for her."
She also said the fact that malls and banks will be especially busy this weekend adds a "deep" level of motivation for police trying to find Ms. Schwab.
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