published Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Prosecutor: Pattern ties 'bra bandit' to 6 Chattanooga area robberies

ROBBERIES

Dates and locations of alleged armed robberies:

• Oct. 6, 2010: CVS Pharmacy at 6802 Lee Highway

• Jan. 15, 2011: East Lake Postal Station at 2600 E. 34th St.

• Feb. 12, 2011: In-Town Suites at 5730 Lee Highway

• March 9, 2011: Golden Mart Beauty Supply Store at 5300 Brainerd Road

• March 26, 2011: Red Roof Inn at 7014 Shallowford Road

• April 29, 2011: Cash Express at 4025 Brainerd Road

Source: Federal court documents

Two hotels, a beauty shop, a post office, a pharmacy, a money store -- all were targets of local robberies over seven months starting in October 2010.

The various businesses were hit, sometimes by one man, sometimes by a pair of men. Always the men wore hooded sweatshirts and masks.

In every instance a female clerk was working, nearly always alone. And in nearly every case the robber made the woman take off her bra to check for money.

Federal prosecutor Chris Poole told a jury of 10 women and four men Tuesday that the man who held those female clerks at gunpoint and searched their bras during the robberies was August Anthony Ford, 35.

Poole explained how Ford was pulled over in Bradley County, Tenn., in 2009 along with Roderick Dewayne Jennings, 36. Police searched the car and found a handgun wrapped in cloth and hidden beneath the hood.

Ford had a felony record. It's a federal crime for convicted felons to possess a firearm. Ford asked police if he could become an informant instead of doing prison time. Police agreed.

He bought guns from a man named "Red," testified against him and helped Poole get the man to plead guilty to selling weapons illegally.

But as he informed on Jason "Red" Vaughn, Poole said, Ford began a string of what would become six armed robberies.

Ford and Jennings pleaded guilty to armed robberies in state court here in 1998. Both received 12-year sentences but were paroled early.

Poole told the jury during opening statements that Jennings would be called to testify. When arrested he told investigators about the robberies he had participated in with Ford. He said he also heard Ford talk about "feeling up" a woman he robbed at the East Lake post office.

But Ford's attorney, Lee Ortwein, told jurors the case Poole was presenting was built on lies concocted by Jennings in the hope he'll get a reduced sentence or walk free.

Jennings pleaded guilty to a federal weapons possession charge in September 2012 and received a 15-year sentence. In the federal system there is no parole.

"Jennings' problem? The feds have got him," Ortwein said. "He doesn't want to go to prison for a million years."

He pointed out that Jennings was only charged with weapons possession and not robbery even though he admitted to doing some of the robberies with Ford.

"August Ford, he's not a saint," Ortwein said. "He has made some horrible choices in friends."

Beyond the witness testimony, Poole will present: video recordings of the robberies, an audio police interview with Ford, GPS tracking information showing Ford's car within 200 yards of the last robbery at the time of the crime, a stolen cellphone and jewelry taken from one of the robberies and time-stamped receipts of purchases Ford made in the three hours between the last robbery and his arrest.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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