Woman pleads guilty to role in organized ring of purse thieves

A Florida woman recruited into an organized ring that pilfered purses for identification and checkbooks used in multiple bank frauds pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. Federal Court in Augusta.

Kimberly N. Brogdon, 28, admitted she committed aggravated identity theft and conspiracy in Augusta in July.

Brogdon, Jerrold D. Harrison, 30, Johnny A. Hodges, 40, Jessica R. Bryant, 34, and James Woodard, 34, are named in a 33-count federal indictment that charges the group with conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

FBI Special Agent Paul Kubala testified Thursday that the group worked from Atlanta to Florida. The men would usually be the ones who got identification and checkbooks by targeting vehicles parked at places such as gyms or parks – places women might leave purses in their vehicle.

Women such as Brogdon were recruited to be the “cashers,” Kubula said. They would don wigs and otherwise try to match their appearance to the female victims to cash checks at the victims’ banks. As U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall noted Thursday, banks won’t cash checks from someone unless the person has an account with the bank.

Investigators with the sheriff’s offices in Richmond and Columbia counties were onto the scheme when Harrison, Hodges and Bryant led Columbia County deputies on a chase that ended with a car crash in McDuffie County.

Brodgon, who wasn’t with the others arrested after the Columbia County chase, told the judge she was recruited for the role of casher. When asked how she was selected, Brodgon said she was an addict and the men sought recruits in Orlando where drugs were exchanged and used.

Brodgon said she initially got a 10-percent cut but worked her way up to 20 percent. They would know it was safe to cash checks from an account by calling first to check the balance, and kept the check amounts under $2,000 to avoid suspicion, she said.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Brodgon and two others were arrested in August for running the same scam in Florida.

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