Doris Payne, 80, the notorious “grandmother jewel thief”
implicated in dozens of thefts whose career stretches back decades, was convicted on Jan. 12 for stealing an $8,900 ring, according to the San
Diego district attorney’s office.
She is due to be sentenced Feb. 9. She faces more than five years in prison.
Payne was charged with stealing the diamond ring from
a San Diego Macy’s on Jan. 2, 2010. Her lawyer reportedly
claimed the arrest was a case of mistaken identity due to Payne’s
Payne, who is said to have as many as 30 aliases, has been
implicated in jewelry-related crime, both in the U.S. and overseas, for over 40 years.
“She is an extremely well-dressed, well-groomed, well-spoken,
polite woman who appears to be very affluent,” says Jewelers Security Alliance
executive director John Kennedy. “She sees a lot of things in the
store. She’ll say she wants to look at something for her, for her daughter. She
confuses the salespeople so much that they keep taking out product, putting it
away, and they lose track, and, eventually, she palms something.”
To prevent these kind of thefts, Kennedy recommends that jewelers only take out one item at a time, and keep close tabs on jewelry that is being shown.
According to a 2005 Denver Post article, Payne’s list of
arrests include a 1975 charge for stealing an emerald ring worth $15,000 in
France; theft charges in 1984, 1985, and 1991; and escapes from custody in 1968
More recently, Payne was charged
with stealing jewelry from a Neiman Marcus in 2005. She is also being investigated in conjunction with the theft
of a $13,000 diamond ring from a
department store in Santa Barbara, Calif., in August 2010, the JSA says. Last January, she was reportedly arrested for stealing a Burberry coat.
The group also
reports that Payne was spotted in a jewelry store in Scottsdale, Ariz., in December. However, the store’s owner conducted an
inventory of merchandise after recognizing her and nothing was missing.
Press accounts say
a movie, Who Is Doris Payne, is
being made of her life, starring Halle Berry as Payne.
“My fear is that they would try to glamorize this kind of fraud,” Kennedy says.
“Our organization has been following her since the 1960s,” says
Kennedy. “She has a rap sheet as long as your arm. She has been arrested
innumerable times and been in jail many times. But they don’t keep her in jail
very long, because with elderly people there are usually medical problems.
“No one else that we follow really has this kind of long
career in crime,” he continues. “Let’s put it this way: There is only one
criminal who is still out there that [former director] James B. White told me
about when I took over 19 years ago. And that is her.”