Southern jewelry store bandit could face 120 years in prison

PANAMA CITY, Fla.  – Authorities say a woman has pleaded guilty to charges arising from a string of jewelry store heists across the South that reports say took in up to $4.3 million worth of merchandise.

Abigail Lee Kemp, 25, waived her right to trial in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina when she accepted a plea deal Wednesday in Panama City federal court, local news organizations reported.

Kemp, a former waitress and aspiring model, has already pleaded guilty to conspiring with three men in the robbery of a Panama City Beach jewelry store, the reports say.

Kemp was arrested last January just five days after an armed robbery at a jewelry store in Mebane, North Carolina.

She was charged in a string of robberies spanning a 10-month period.  Various estimates value the loot stolen between $2.2 million to $4.3 million.

The FBI zeroed in Kemp and two others after analyzing records from cellphone towers near the robberies, then checking social media and hearing from suspicious friends, according to court records.

Kemp had a cellphone ear piece on during the various robberies  so she could keep in constant contact with her boyfriend, Lewis Jones III, who was acting as a lookout, officials said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13. The News Herald reports she faces up to 20 years for each of six counts of interfering with commerce and could face a life sentence for brandishing a firearm during store robberies.

In the early Jan. 2016 Mebane, N.C. robbery, Kemp was accused of tying up two workers at a store in Tanger Outlets.

Mebane police said the woman showed a handgun and ordered the employees to a back room before tying them up with zip-ties. In previous robberies of jewelry stores, the woman also showed a gun and tied up workers at the stores with zip-ties.

The incident was reported around 10:30 a.m. at the Jared Vault at 4000 Arrowhead Boulevard. No one was injured.