HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A West End day care operator who also worked at a Dollar Tree has been sentenced after pleading guilty to orchestrating a series of armed robberies at the store.
Christina Pilgrim, 37, was sentenced Thursday to nearly 13 years in prison for aiding and abetting multiple robberies, and aiding and abetting the brandishing of a firearm during one of those robberies.
Pilgrim previously entered a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, 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.
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.
Pilgrim, met Ali Cousins Jr. around 2017 when he brought his son to Pilgrim’s home day care, according to court documents.
"The two entered into a romantic relationship shortly after meeting. Pilgrim was married at the time," G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said.
Pilgrim also worked at the Dollar Tree while running the home day care, officials said.
"When Cousins began to suffer financial difficulties in 2018, Pilgrim suggested to him that he could rob the Dollar Tree where she worked. She assured him that the business would be easy to rob," Terwilliger said.
In fact, officials said Pilgrim told Cousins which employees would be at work as well as where the safes and cameras were located in the store.
"Additionally, Pilgrim provided Cousins access to a firearm that her husband owned and left in her home which Cousins could use during the robberies. Cousins would rob the store five times between the months of March and September 2018," Terwilliger said.
During one robbery which occurred in August 2018, Pilgrim informed Cousins that the store manager to the Dollar Tree would make the nightly bank deposit at a nearby Wells Fargo bank. Cousins decided that he would rob the store manager as the manager made the deposit, and Pilgrim drove Cousins to the Wells Fargo to wait for the store manager to arrive. Pilgrim watched as the store manager left the Dollar Tree and informed Cousins when the manager was on his way to the bank. When the manager arrived, Cousins completed the robbery and Pilgrim picked Cousins up afterward.
For the last robbery in September 2018, Pilgrim provided Cousins access to her husband’s vehicle which Cousins used to complete the robbery. Cousins and an accomplice, Bryant Williams, then traveled to the Dollar Tree and entered the store just before closing. Pilgrim, who was working at the store at the time, saw Cousins and Williams arrive and enter the restroom of the store to wait for the right opportunity to complete the robbery. While Cousins and Williams waited, Pilgrim sent text messages to Cousins regarding others in the store being suspicious of them when they came to the store. Soon after that text message, Cousins and Williams completed the robbery and fled the store. Law enforcement would arrest Cousins the same night and would arrest Williams several months later.
Cousins pleaded guilty and admitted to having committed five robberies. Williams, and another accomplice, Anthony Simmons, who Cousins recruited for the first robbery, pleaded guilty to their roles in the individual robberies they performed with Cousins, officials said.