International jewel thief Doris Payne, 86, arrested again

Doris Payne mugshot (Photo Source: DeKalb County Jail)
Doris Payne mug shot (Photo source: DeKalb County Jail)

Doris Payne, 86, has taken her shenanigans to the good old Southern city of Atlanta. The international jewel thief took it upon herself to cash in on a 10-finger discount and steal a necklace at Perimeter Mall located in the Dunwoody suburb of the Georgia city.

She was caught stealing a $1,995 diamond necklace from the Von Maur department store. Payne is a career criminal. She’s been creeping in jewelry stores and stealing what she could get her hands on for more than 40 years. The Jewelers’ Security Alliance, an industry trade group, sent out bulletins as early as the 1970s on her.

When she was only 23 years old, she walked out of a Pittsburgh jewelry store with a diamond valued at $22,000.

Payne’s thefts span two continents and she’s had at least 22 aliases, nine dates of birth, and five Social Security numbers. She’s the subject of the documentary, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, which chronicles her feats.

The Associated Press interviewed her this year when she admitted, “I was a thief.”

She won’t necessarily take all the credit for the notoriety. “I don’t dictate what happens when I walk in the store. The people in charge dictate what happens with me when I walk in the store,” she says. “I don’t tell a person in the store I want to see something that costs $10,000. They make those decisions based on how I present myself and how I look.

“I don’t have any regrets about stealing jewelry. I regret getting caught.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, police found the trinket in Payne’s back pocket. She was charged with shoplifting and booked into the DeKalb County Jail.

In 2010, Payne begged and pleaded with Judge Frank Brown to be lenient. He told her, “You won’t stop,” and sentenced her to the maximum of five years. He also stated, “She’s a thief. She’s charming. Santa Claus’ wife, that’s who she is.”

In 2014, a California judge took pity of the elderly con’s age and health. She was sentenced to spend two years in jail and two years under mandatory supervision for stealing a ring valued at $22,500 from El Paseo Jewellers in Palm Desert, California.

After early release, she was caught stealing a $690 pair of earrings in Atlanta’s Saks Fifth Avenue.

Payne once dreamed of becoming a ballerina but that dream was crushed when someone broke it down and told her there was no Black ballerina. Instead, she used grace and poise to become a notorious jewelry thief. She’s tiptoed in and out of jewelry stores as far-flung as Britain, France, Italy, Monaco and even Japan.

Her strategy: dress nicely, carry a designer handbag and arm yourself with a detailed story.

Yvette Caslin
Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.

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