Henrico daycare operator pleads guilty to masterminding West End crime spree

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A West End daycare operator who also worked at a Dollar Tree pleaded guilty to orchestrating a series of armed robberies at the store.

Christina Pilgrim entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors Wednesday, admitting guilt to the following three criminal counts:

  • Two counts of Hobbs Act Robbery, aiding and abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1951 and 2.
  • One count of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, aiding and abetting, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 924(c) and 2.

The maximum penalties for Counts Four and Six are a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.

The maximum penalties for Count Five are a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 7 years, a maximum term of imprisonment of life.

Pilgrim's sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3 in Richmond federal court.

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.

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.

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.

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