Two of the men who robbed the Wells Fargo Bank on Columbia Pike last New Year’s Eve were convicted of armed bank robbery today in federal court.
James McNeal, 63, of Hyattsville, Md., and Alphonso Stoddard, 59, of Forest Heights, Md., were each convicted of armed bank robbery, conspiracy to commit bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Stoddard was also convicted in connection with two other bank robberies around the D.C. area in 2013.
The men will be sentenced Nov. 7. Stoddard is facing a life sentence because of prior convictions, while McNeal is facing up to life in prison with a mandatory minimum of seven years.
McNeal, Stoddard and D.C. resident James Link were arrested after holding up the Wells Fargo at the corner of the Pike and S. George Mason Drive and making off with $47,000. A few blocks away, an FBI SWAT team, which had been conducting surveillance of the trio since before they arrived at the bank, apprehended them.
Link pleaded guilty to two counts of brandishing a firearm and admitted his involvement in four other bank robberies. He will be sentenced Sept. 12. Below is the press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia’s office:
James McNeal, 63, of Hyattsville, Maryland, and Alphonso Stoddard, 59, of Forest Heights, Maryland, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit bank robbery, armed bank robbery and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Timothy A. Gallagher, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and M. Douglas Scott, Arlington County Chief of Police, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted on Aug. 8, 2014 by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III.
Stoddard was convicted of charges involving three separate bank robberies, and McNeal was convicted for his involvement in one bank robbery. Stoddard faces a mandatory life sentence because of prior convictions for armed bank robberies, and McNeal faces a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. The two defendants will be sentenced on November 7, 2014.
According to court records and evidence at trial, the FBI identified McNeal and Stoddard as possible suspects in a string of bank robberies in late 2013 and kept the men under close surveillance. On Dec. 27, 2013, McNeal and Stoddard were followed by law enforcement agents as they cased two banks in Arlington, Virginia. One of the banks the defendants were seen casing was a Wells Fargo branch on South George Mason Drive.
On Dec. 31, 2013, McNeal left his residence in Hyattsville and picked up Stoddard before returning to the Wells Fargo branch in Arlington. At approximately 1:15 p.m., Stoddard and a third man, James Link, 56, of Washington, D.C., entered the bank. Inside the bank, Link brandished a firearm while Stoddard removed approximately $47,000 in cash from teller drawers. The two men exited the bank and returned to the vehicle where McNeal was waiting. The FBI and Arlington officers arrested the defendants approximately one block away from the Wells Fargo branch. A handgun and cash were found in the vehicle.
A search of McNeal’s house led to the discovery of an additional firearm believed to be used in earlier bank robberies, cash and gloves. Stoddard admitted to his involvement in armed robberies at a Wells Fargo in Rockville, Maryland on Oct. 29, 2013 and the Bank of Georgetown in Vienna, Virginia on Oct. 30, 2013. Link admitted he was involved in the Bank of Georgetown robbery and an armed robbery at a Wells Fargo in Arlington on Nov. 25, 2013.
Link pleaded guilty to two counts of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and admitted his involvement in four bank robberies. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 32 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 12, 2014.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from FBI’s Baltimore Division and the Arlington County and Fairfax County police departments. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Columbia and the District of Maryland also provided assistance in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam B. Schwartz and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer A. Clarke are prosecuting the case.