Henrico daycare operator charged with masterminding West End crime spree

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A Henrico County daycare operator faces multiple federal charges, accused of masterminding a series of armed robberies at a Dollar Tree store in the Tuckahoe area.

Christina M. Pilgrim was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month, and charged with two counts of robbery, one count of conspiracy, and two counts of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

Between March and September 2018, Pilgrim was involved in planning at least three robberies at the Dollar Tree on Patterson Avenue where she also worked, according to prosecutors and investigators.

Pilgrim worked with a number of male accomplices, according to federal court documents, and would provide them information about who would be working at the Dollar Tree the night of each robbery.

In a criminal complaint, a member of the FBI’s Central Virginia Violent Crimes Task Force said that on the night of August 6, Pilgrim drove a man named Ali Cousins Jr. to the Wells Fargo bank in the 9000 block of Patterson Avenue.

Cousins later told investigators he got out of the car and hid in the bushes, and that Pilgrim drove to a spot where she could see the front of the Dollar Tree. Cousins said that Pilgrim sent him a text message when the manager of the Dollar Tree left the store and began heading toward the bank.

According to the complaint, Cousins, armed with a semi-automatic handgun, robbed the manager when he approached the night deposit area, then fled the scene and was picked up by Pilgrim.

Prosecutors said Pilgrim and Cousins arranged another robbery that took place on September 4, this time inside the store. Cousins was captured and arrested the following day.

According to the criminal complaint, Cousins and his lawyer met with investigators in early January, at which time he confessed to his role in the robberies, and said that he had planned each one after conversations with Pilgrim. Cousins also said that she had provided him with the handgun that he used.

About this same time, investigators interviewed Pilgrim’s husband. According to court documents, they showed him a picture of the gun that was found when Cousins was arrested, and Pilgrim’s husband said that it belonged to him, and that he kept it in the closet of Pilgrim’s bedroom at her house.

On January 14, investigators “reviewed Google location data” for an account connected to Christina Pilgrim and her mobile phone. According to the criminal complaint, they were able to place that phone in the area of the Dollar Tree and the Wells Fargo around the time of the robbery on August 6.

Pilgrim was arrested in February.

“This is a case that is probably a pretty strong case considering the text message evidence, and the other evidence that’s outlined in the indictment,” said CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone.

In addition to working at the Dollar Tree, Pilgrim has been a licensed daycare provider in Henrico County for the last five years, according to the website of the Virginia Department of Social Services. She operates a “family day home” out of a home on Ridge Road.

CBS 6 went to the address Tuesday evening, but a wooden gate prevented us from reaching the front door.

CBS 6 also contacted VDSS, to ask if the charges Pilgrim now faces would impact her license, or her ability to legally run a daycare. A spokesperson for the department said they would consult with the Division of Child Licensing on the matter, and would get back to us when they had more information.

Pilgrim is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Richmond Federal Court.

Two other suspects, Anthony Simmons and Bryant Williams, are also named in the indictment.

Ali Cousins, who was charged separately, has entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors.

If convicted of the charges she’s facing, Pilgrim will likely face a lengthy prison term.

“The argument that the prosecutor is going to make is that they wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this crime without her information,” said Stone.

“It’s possible she could get a greater sentence than the person who held the gun.”

On Tuesday, Pilgrim appeared before a judge in Richmond federal court, waiving a formal arraignment, and pleading not guilty to the criminal charges she is facing.

Pilgrim requested a trial by jury, and the judge scheduled that trial to take place on May 21st.

She remains free on bond.

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