- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The suspected “cell phone bandit” was ordered held without bond yesterday while a federal grand jury considers bank-robbery charges against a woman her attorney described as “the girl next door.”

Candice Rose Martinez, 19, could face trial for the robberies of four Wachovia Bank branches located in three Northern Virginia counties. In each of those robberies, a woman was seen talking on a cell phone after using notes to demand cash from bank tellers. Surveillance video from one of the incidents was shown repeatedly on national television.

“She was involved, directly involved, in four bank robberies,” said Magistrate Judge Thomas R. Jones Jr. after hearing testimony from an FBI agent who questioned Miss Martinez after her Nov. 15 arrest in Centreville.

“She identified herself as the bank robber,” Special Agent Timothy S. Pak testified in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Of the $48,000 taken in the four robberies, only $15,000 — including $2,000 cash — has been accounted for.

Miss Martinez’s boyfriend, Dave Chatram Williams, 19, is charged separately.

Court documents indicate both suspects were involved in composing the notes presented to the tellers. Investigators said Mr. Williams admitted driving the getaway car each time and being on the phone with Miss Martinez.

Mr. Pak also testified that a black revolver had been recovered from the home of Mr. Williams’ stepfather. The weapon is thought to be the gun a teller reported seeing during a Nov. 4 robbery in Ashburn.

“[Miss Martinez] opened the purse so the bank teller would see the gun,” Mr. Pak said. No weapons were displayed in the other robberies.

Defense attorney Michael Davis argued unsuccessfully for releasing Miss Martinez on bond, telling the judge that he would provide her with a place to live and help her find a job while she awaits trial.

“She has never had a record, either as a juvenile or as an adult,” Mr. Davis told the judge. He later described Miss Martinez as “the girl next door,” who sent a few hundred dollars from the robberies to her sister, a grandmother in Santa Fe, N.M., and a family she once lived with in Nebraska.

Mr. Davis said Miss Martinez attended the University of Nebraska last year, but left after one semester before enrolling at Northern Virginia Community College this fall.

“She’s a very nice girl,” Mr. Davis told reporters. He indicated that he might try to get Miss Martinez’s confession thrown out on grounds she was not given an opportunity to speak to an attorney for more than 24 hours after her arrest.

Miss Martinez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each robbery. She also could face 10 years on a weapons charge.

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