The “training,” federal authorities say, covered everything necessary for a budding jewel thief to succeed. Handguns 101. The art of ziptie restraint. Code words. What, exactly, to steal.
Authorities believe the schooling took place at a window tinting shop on Atlanta's Cheshire Bridge Road, and that the pupil was 24-year-old Abigail Lee Kemp — the now infamous Cobb County woman tied to a string of six jewelry store robberies across the Southeast. Documents released after Kemp and one alleged co-conspirator were detained in January detailed some of the crew's alleged actions, but an FBI affidavit tied to the recent arrest of two more suspects provides even more insight into the group's evolution.
“They routinely practiced at Buckhead Window Tinting until they believed Kemp was ready to commit the robberies,” the affidavit said.
On April 28, 2015, the woman authorities have identified as Kemp walked into the Jared's Vault jewelry store at a Woodstock outlet mall, a portly man entering behind her. The man, now believed to be Lewis Jones III, pulled out a handgun, ordered employees into a bathroom and zip-tied their hands together. Kemp then acted as a lookout while Jones pilfered the display cases, officials have said.
After that robbery, the affidavit alleges, Jones and two more men — Michael and Larry Gilmore, 46 and 43 years old, respectively — “began training Kemp to rob the jewelry stores on her own.”
“Michael, Larry and Jones reviewed layouts of the target jewelry stores with Kemp; instructed her on the proper way to manipulate a handgun, how to secure the employees with zip ties, and what merchandise to steal from the store; and gave Kemp various code words to use when communicating during the jewelry store robberies,” the affidavit said. “Furthermore, they decided what clothes/disguises Kemp would wear during the robberies and then purchased the items for her.”
The FBI documents refer to the store where the training took place as “the Gilmore’s window tint shop,” but it was unclear if the men owned the business. Phone calls to the shop went unanswered Saturday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, which is spearheading the investigation, announced Thursday that charges had been filed against the Gilmores, whose relationship is unclear. Charged with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats or violence, they had initial court appearances Friday afternoon.
Affidavits allege both men, as well as Jones, acted as lookouts during the series of robberies, which took place in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina and netted an estimated $4 million in jewelry and watches. Authorities believe that, during each robbery, Kemp communicated with the men through an earpiece connected to her cellphone.
Typically, Jones would pick Kemp up after the robbery and they would meet up with the Gilmores, authorities said. Jones would then take a trash bag filled with the stolen jewelry, the handgun and Kemp’s clothes and leave with the Gilmores while Kemp drove away on her own.
“Generally, a few days after the robberies had occurred, Kemp would meet Jones, and on at least one occassion, Larry, to receive payment for her share of the robbery proceeds, usually with $100 bills,” the affidavit said.
The final robbery took place on Jan. 4 in Mebane, N.C., but how Kemp, Jones and the Gilmores allegedly met remains unclear. FBI documents allude to the involvement of “others currently unknown.”
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com