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Jewel thief, Doris Payne, 86, arrested for missing court





  • Doris Payne, 86, has been arrested again and this time for missing her court date
  • The infamous jewel thief has a criminal record spanning six decades 
  • She missed a March 6 arraignment in an alleged 2016 jewel theft of a necklace
  • Payne was caught stealing a $1,995 diamond necklace from a store in December 
  • Last month, a judge deemed her too ill to stand trial in for a 2015 theft charge
  • Police said she stole $690 Christian Dior earrings from Saks Fifth Avenue 
  • Payne has stolen about $2million in jewelry over the last 60 years  
  • Her story was featured in 2013 documentary 'The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne'
  • When asked about her exploits this year, she said simply: 'I was a thief'

By Dailymail.com Reporter and Associated Press

Published: 09:48 EDT, 14 March 2017 | Updated: 10:44 EDT, 14 March 2017

Infamous jewel thief Doris 'Diamond' Payne, 86, was arrested after authorities said she failed to appear in court earlier this month Infamous jewel thief Doris 'Diamond' Payne, 86, was arrested after authorities said she failed to appear in court earlier this month

Infamous jewel thief Doris 'Diamond' Payne, 86, was arrested after authorities said she failed to appear in court earlier this month

Infamous jewel thief Doris 'Diamond' Payne, 86, was arrested after authorities said she failed to appear in court earlier this month. 

Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office.

She was sought after missing an arraignment on March 6 in an alleged 2016 jewelry theft at Perimeter Mall, about 13 miles north of downtown Atlanta.

The noted jewel thief faces a shoplifting charge for stealing a $2,000 diamond necklace from the Von Maur department store inside the mall on December 13, 2016. 

Police said she put the $1,995 diamond necklace in her back pocket and tried to leave the Von Maur department store.

Payne is currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail. 

Last month, a judge deemed Payne too ill to stand trial in connection with a 2015 theft charge. 

Authorities said Payne stole a pair of Christian Dior earrings from Saks Fifth Avenue at Phipps Plaza in October 2015. 

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Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. Payne is pictured during a court date in December 2016 Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. Payne is pictured during a court date in December 2016

Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. Payne is pictured during a court date in December 2016

May 10 1965 May 10 1965
June 3, 1965 June 3, 1965

Career criminal: Payne has a criminal record spanning six decades. She was arrested twice in 1965, first on May 10 (left), and again on June 3 (right)

However, that case is now on indefinite hold, according to an administrative order signed by Deputy Chief Judge Alford J. Dempsey Jr on February 23. 

In December, Payne, who has stolen about $2million in jewelry over the last six decades and reflected on her crimes in a documentary, assured a judge that she's never been late for a court appearance. 

She made her 'respect for judges' known, adding: 'I'm not denying that I have a history. I do.'

Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. She's pictured in 2015 during booking  Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. She's pictured in 2015 during booking 

Payne was arrested on Monday at her Atlanta home by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office. She's pictured in 2015 during booking 

When the judge set bond at $15,000, and restricted her from leaving the state, Payne promised to obey the law and thanked him for being fair. 

Payne has traveled the world, swiping millions of dollars worth of jewels by making staff 'forget' she was carrying them. 
The career criminal, who was once wanted on two continents, swore off her life of crime more than a decade ago. But it seems that old habits die hard. 

Authorities said Payne has lifted pricey baubles from countless jewelry stores around the world, and the senior citizen once bragged about a $500,000 heist in Monte Carlo.

The legend of Payne's thefts have long fascinated the public and media, with countless news stories and a 2013 documentary film, 'The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne,' detailing her feats.

Matthew Pond, who co-directed the film, said Payne loved the attention and adrenaline rush, telling NBC: 'She likes playing the part and getting into the role. She's a bit of an actress.'

When asked about her exploits in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year, she said simply: 'I was a thief.'

Payne's mugshot from 2009 Payne's mugshot from 2009
Her mugshot from 2013 Her mugshot from 2013

Payne was sought after missing an arraignment on March 6 in an alleged 2016 jewelry theft at Perimeter Mall. She was also arrested in 2009, (left) and again in 2013 (right)

The noted jewel thief currently faces a shoplifting charge for stealing a $2,000 diamond necklace from the Von Maur department store inside the mall on December 13, 2016. She's pictured in January 2016 during an interview in Atlanta The noted jewel thief currently faces a shoplifting charge for stealing a $2,000 diamond necklace from the Von Maur department store inside the mall on December 13, 2016. She's pictured in January 2016 during an interview in Atlanta

The noted jewel thief currently faces a shoplifting charge for stealing a $2,000 diamond necklace from the Von Maur department store inside the mall on December 13, 2016. She's pictured in January 2016 during an interview in Atlanta

Court papers in Atlanta reference six cases prior to the alleged theft last year, mostly in southern California, dating to 1999. 

Payne's career as an international jewel thief began decades ago with a criminal record dating back to 1952.

Since then she has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry including her most notable theft - a 10-carat diamond ring, valued at $500,000, from Monte Carlo in the 1970s.

Payne fled to France, and was detained in Nice before being extradited back to Monte Carlo. She was held there for nine months before being released, as authorities were unable to locate the stolen gem. 

Last month, a judge deemed her too ill to stand trial over a 2015 theft charge. She's pictured in her Dec 2016 mugshot  Last month, a judge deemed her too ill to stand trial over a 2015 theft charge. She's pictured in her Dec 2016 mugshot 

Last month, a judge deemed her too ill to stand trial over a 2015 theft charge. She's pictured in her Dec 2016 mugshot 

Authorities have said she has used at least 22 aliases over the years and probably got away more often than she was caught, though she has done several stints in prison. 

The Jewelers' Security Alliance, an industry trade group, sent out bulletins as early as the 1970s warning about her.

Payne, who appeared effortlessly elegant and spoke with calm deliberation during the interview with the AP, nevertheless grew cagey when asked about her methods.

'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 said.

'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.' 

Born to a coal mining father and a seamstress mother in the remote and impoverished town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, in 1930, Payne was the youngest of six children.

Although a family move to Cleveland, Ohio, broadened her horizons somewhat as a teenager, she still faced the injustice and suppression that was the lot of many black women in those days of American history.

Kirk Marcolina, producer of The Life And Crimes Of Doris Payne, said: 'She always wanted to become a ballerina but one day somebody told her she couldn't - there were no black ballerinas.

'She realized she had to find another way of getting out of that small town and seeing the world. Stealing jewels eventually became the way she did it.'

In the documentary, Doris revealed how she first learned her trademark distraction trick as a teenager when a store clerk eagerly ditched her when a white customer came in.

She walked to the door, a small gold watch still clasped around her wrist. Although she gave it back that time, she realized how easy it would have been to walk away with the prize.

Sweet, elegant and immaculately turned out, Payne may be the world's most unlikely international jewel thief Sweet, elegant and immaculately turned out, Payne may be the world's most unlikely international jewel thief

Sweet, elegant and immaculately turned out, Payne may be the world's most unlikely international jewel thief

From there, she worked her way up from bargain jewelry to some of the most expensive stores across the globe, hitting targets as far afield as Britain, France, Italy, Monaco and even Japan.

Aged just 23, she walked out of a Pittsburgh jewelry store with a diamond valued at $22,000.

She developed a winning strategy - dressing nicely, carrying a designer handbag and arming herself with a detailed story - that she used to charm jewelry store employees. 

Faced with a well-to-do woman with money to spend, store employees would relax their rules and bring out multiple high-value pieces at once, and Payne would quickly slip the expensive baubles on and off until the employee lost track and she could easily leave with one in hand.

Over time, she has been connected to 22 aliases, nine dates of birth, and five Social Security numbers, but is nevertheless so brazen about her crimes that she once gave her occupation as 'jewel thief' in court papers.

But the international lifestyle has come at a heavy price for the cunning Payne: she has an Interpol file dating back to the 1970s, a US criminal record 20 pages long and has served a string of jail terms including a nearly five-year prison stint in Colorado.

In a 2005 jail interview, Payne remembered her exploits with amusement and explained how she stole diamonds because they were easiest.

For her, the thefts were about the thrill, not the money.

'There’s never been a day that I went to steal that I did not get what I went to do,' she said in her documentary. 

A wanted poster was issued for Payne and her suspected accomplice Harold Brondfield in 1966 over the theft of two rings A wanted poster was issued for Payne and her suspected accomplice Harold Brondfield in 1966 over the theft of two rings

A wanted poster was issued for Payne and her suspected accomplice Harold Brondfield in 1966 over the theft of two rings

The international lifestyle has come at a heavy price for the cunning Payne: she has an Interpol file dating back to the 1970s, a US criminal record 20 pages long and has served a string of jail terms, she is pictured in her cell at Clark County jail in Las Vegas, in 2005 The international lifestyle has come at a heavy price for the cunning Payne: she has an Interpol file dating back to the 1970s, a US criminal record 20 pages long and has served a string of jail terms, she is pictured in her cell at Clark County jail in Las Vegas, in 2005

The international lifestyle has come at a heavy price for the cunning Payne: she has an Interpol file dating back to the 1970s, a US criminal record 20 pages long and has served a string of jail terms, she is pictured in her cell at Clark County jail in Las Vegas, in 2005

Payne (pictured posing for a photo in Atlanta in January 2016) is currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail Payne (pictured posing for a photo in Atlanta in January 2016) is currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail

Payne (pictured posing for a photo in Atlanta in January 2016) is currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail

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

That sentiment proves problematic for judges faced with the elderly offender.

In 2010, she asked one to be lenient because she was 'truly sorry that this went on as long as it did' but that wasn't enough.

'You won't stop,' Judge Frank Brown said at the time, explaining his decision to sentence her to five years which was at the high end of the possible verdicts.

'That’s the problem here... She’s a thief. She’s charming. Santa Claus’s wife, that’s who she is.'

After that punitive sentence, Doris vowed to leave her life of crime. 

But in 2013, just three months after she had been released from jail, she was up to her old tricks. 

When Doris walked into El Paseo Jewelers in Palm Desert, California, staff were delighted. 

White-haired and elegant, not in the best of health but articulate and elegantly turned out, she told them she had just had a $25,000 insurance payout and wanted to spend the cash on a present for herself.

Salespeople fussed around her, helping her try on gem-encrusted necklaces and rings and, when her hip began playing up, finding her a chair to rest her legs.

After making arrangements to complete her purchase of a diamond and white gold pinkie ring the next day, they helped her hobble to the door.

What staff did not realize was that the $22,500 the ring was still on her finger. 

Payne is pictured in court in 2013 after she walked out an El Paseo jewelers with a $22, 500 ring just three months after she was released Payne is pictured in court in 2013 after she walked out an El Paseo jewelers with a $22, 500 ring just three months after she was released

Payne is pictured in court in 2013 after she walked out an El Paseo jewelers with a $22, 500 ring just three months after she was released

All a ruse: Over time, she has been connected to 22 aliases, nine dates of birth, and five Social Security numbers (Payne pictured in a Las Vegas courtroom in 2005) All a ruse: Over time, she has been connected to 22 aliases, nine dates of birth, and five Social Security numbers (Payne pictured in a Las Vegas courtroom in 2005)

All a ruse: Over time, she has been connected to 22 aliases, nine dates of birth, and five Social Security numbers (Payne pictured in a Las Vegas courtroom in 2005)

The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of El Paseo Jewelers only realized that the ring was missing hours after she had gone.

She sold the ring to a nearby pawnshop for $800, and as part of the sale, she had to give her thumbprint, which eventually tipped off authorities.

In 2014, she was sentenced to spend two years in jail and two years under mandatory supervision after the judge took pity on her age and ill health.

After an early release, she was arrested again last year for allegedly pocketing a $690 pair of earrings from a Saks Fifth Avenue department store at a mall in Atlanta's upscale Buckhead neighborhood. 

Payne is truly in a league of her own in the pantheon of jewel thieves, Jewelers' Security Alliance president John J Kennedy said.

'It's extraordinarily rare for a criminal to have that lengthy of a career,' he said. 'Usually they either stop because they have enough money and they don't want the risk anymore, or they're dead.'

Kennedy said people often ask him about her, fascinated and even amused by the story of this elderly woman who has committed so many thefts.

'We're all laughing, but it's not funny,' he said. 'She goes in and she takes product from people, and it causes a lot of grief for people.'  

'I have long said that she is a career criminal, and I doubt if she has any interest whatsoever in stopping,' he said. 'When you're that age and you're still doing it, you're not about to stop.' 

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