How FBI caught a $4 million jewelry store robbery suspect

A combination of technology and traditional police work led the FBI to Abigail Lee Kemp, who is suspected of about stealing $4 million from jewelry stores across five Southern states.

Surveillance video shows a Jan. 4, 2016 image of the woman police have charged with jewelry thefts in five states.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation caught a woman suspected in a slew of jewelry store robberies across the South, court records show.

Abigail Lee Kemp’s alleged five-state crime spree came to an end Friday after the FBI identified her through a combination of technology and traditional police work: analyzing cell phone records and video surveillance, monitoring social media, and following up on calls from a few suspicious friends.

"Within hours of issuing a press release this week requesting assistance in identifying the suspects, the FBI Jacksonville Division began to receive numerous credible leads from the public," the FBI said in a news release.

"Some citizens further advised that during recent contacts with Kemp, she was wearing expensive jewelry that some of the callers believe she cannot afford," the newly released court affidavit said.

The first heist took place April 28, at a jewelry store in Woodstock, Ga., where the suspect and an unidentified male accomplice herded employees into a bathroom and zip-tied their hands before raiding the store’s display cases, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. On Aug. 5, she struck again, pulling a handgun at a Zales Outlet in Dawsonville, also in Georgia.

Four similar robberies and one attempt were reported in four other states over the next five months: Panama City Beach, Fla.; Bluffton, S.C.; Sevierville, Tenn.; and Mebane, N.C.

The total haul was worth about $4 million, according to the Journal-Constitution.

A turning point in the case came from a specific phone number with an area code out of north Georgia, court records reveal. Cell tower data showed that the number popped up at or near jewelry stores in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina at the time the businesses were being robbed, authorities said. Investigators used the number to identify Ms. Kemp.

They also found a photo of a maroon Honda Civic on Kemp’s social media accounts that matched the description of one spotted in surveillance footage. The license plate linked the vehicle to a woman in Cobb County, Ga., who shared Kemp’s surname, the Journal-Constitution reports.

"Some citizens also advised that Kemp possesses a black handgun and recently had her car painted black,” the court affidavit said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

Abigail Lee Kemp attended Cobb County’s Kennesaw Mountain High School, then Hillgrove in Powder Springs, where a former friend said she played basketball and softball. The friend, Stephanie Godfrey, described her as cocky and mischievous. Confident. Why she left her old high school was a “fun mystery for everyone.”

“She thought she could get away with a lot,” Godfrey said.

Authorities took Kemp into custody Friday in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, Ga. She is scheduled to appear in federal court Monday.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.