A suspect in a spree of jewelry store robberies across several southern states has been arrested, the FBI says.
Kemp is suspected of at least six brazen armed robberies at stores in five states. The first robbery occurred on April 29 in Woodstock, Georgia, with the latest taking place on January 4 Mebane, North Carolina, police say.
She is also suspected in similar robberies on October 16 in Sevierville, Tennessee; on September 2 in Bluffton, South Carolina; on August 11 in Panama City, Florida; and on August 5 in Dawsonville, Georgia.
Kemp appeared in court for the first time on Monday, crying as her family watched as she was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals. She is charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence, by robbery.
Federal prosecutors have also charged Lewis Jones III, a 35-year-old Georgia man arrested with Kemp in Smyrna. His alleged role in the robberies is not yet clear.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kemp Is Accused of Tying Up Employees at Gunpoint & Then Stealing Expensive Jewelry
The FBI says the suspect, Abigail Lee Kemp, followed a similar strategy in each of the jewelry store robberies.
Investigators say Kemp would stickup the employees at gunpoint, then tie them up, lock the doors of the store and put items from display cases into bags, before fleeing, according to court documents, which you can read above or by clicking here.
You can watch surveillance video of one of the robberies below:
During the January 4 robbery at Jared Vault in Mebane, North Carolina, the FBI says she walked into the store at about 10:30 a.m. and showed a handgun. Then she forced two employees into a back room and zip-tied their hands, investigators say. She went back to the marchandise area, removed various items from display cases and stuff them into a shopping bag before leaving, according to the FBI press release.
She is accused of stealing $938,352 worth of merchandise in the North Carolina heist.
Another video shows the August robbery of Reeds Jewelers in Panama City, Florida:
The stores were mainly in outlet malls off of major interstates.
See more photos from the robberies Kemp is suspected of below:
2. Tipsters Told the FBI She Was Wearing Expensive Jewelry & Painted Her Car
The FBI released several photos and a video of the robberies in hopes of identifying the suspect, who they now believe to be Kemp. The fact she didn’t wear a mask made her any easier target for investigators.
According to court documents, the FBI they received tips from people who knew Kemp and recognized her from surveillance photos. The tipsters said she was seen wearing expensive jewelry. They also said she owned a handgun and had recently painted her Honda Civic. A similar car had been seen near the jewelry stores.
Investigators also found that a telephone number associated with Kemp was used at or near four of the robbery locations when the heists were being committed, court documents show. The FBI says that the robber was seen in surveillance video wearing an ear piece and talking to someone on the phone, which she was holding.
The FBI had expressed concern her notoriety might have led to an escalation of her tactics. Last week, the FBI says she was recognized by a Georgia jewelry store owner and left.
“People are now going to start to recognize who she is,” Special Agent Lawrence Borghini told NBC News, prior to Kemp’s arrest. “They’re going to realize why she’s there, she is armed, and she at that point becomes very unpredictable.”
The FBI thanked the public for the numerous calls and emails they received.
“Within hours of issuing a press release this week requesting assistance in identifying the suspects,” the FBI said.
“We thank our partners in the media who provided invaluable assistance by publicizing our need for information from the public,” Michelle S. Klimt, special agent-in-charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division, said in a statement. “We also thank the many callers who provided us with information to assist in the investigation. You are one of the most valuable resources law enforcement has in fighting crime and we appreciate your efforts.”
3. She Worked as a Hooters Waitress & Played for a Lingerie Football Team
Abby Kemp grew up in Cobb County, Georgia, and most recently worked as a waitress at the Twin Peaks Restaurant in Kennesaw, according to her social media profiles. She also previously worked at Hooters.
A high school athlete, Kemp played for a lingerie football team in Atlanta as a quarterback, according to her Twitter posts. An article on the Atlanta Steam website talks about her performance during tryouts.
“Before camp I didn’t know her name. Now I do. She does not have the mobility of the other QB’s, however in 7-on-7 she is smart, quick and precise. Every time she is under center good things happen. The film does not lie,” Gino Payne wrote for the Legends Football League in 2012.
She also modeled for at least one photo shoot:
A friend told NBC News he was shocked to hear about her arrest.
“She’s real chill. She’s hilarious. She’s the life of the party. I’m not saying she’s a party girl, but she’s always cracking jokes. She’s very fun, very social. She’s one of the homies,” said the friend, who was only identified as Cameron.
She was previously arrested in 2011 on a battery charge in Smyrna, Georgia. She was arrested at least three other times, but details of those cases weren’t immediately available. It’s not known if she has any other prior arrests.
4. Investigators Say She & Her Accomplice Could Be Tied to a Larger Jewel Theft Ring
The FBI said Kemp and her accomplice could be part of a larger jewelry theft organization.
Special Agent Lawrence Borghini, of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, told NBC News the pair was going after very expensive items and might have been supplying a “wish-list” and fencing the stolen goods in a big city or overseas.
“They definitely have some connection with the ability to get these items to a place which can sell them or get them on the market and turn them into cash,” Borghini said.
The Jeweler Security Alliance believes more than $4 million worth of diamonds, watches and other jewelry were stolen during the spree.
The FBI had been searching for a man seen along with Kemp at at least two of the robberies, but it’s not yet clear if that person is the man arrested with Kemp, Lewis Jones, or if there is another suspect.
5. She Was Called ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ by a Jeweler’s Association
A $10,000 reward was issued for information about the suspect by the Jeweler Security Alliance, which called her its “Public Enemy No. 1.”
“She’s a very, very bold criminal,” said John Kennedy, president of the organization, told NBC News.
Kennedy said this is the first time he’s seen a robbery spree where the main suspect is a woman.
“Usually you have a gang of males will go in — occasionally they’ll be accompanied by a female — but to have a lone female go in is extraordinarily rare,” he said.