Elderly Jewel Thief in Trouble Again

Doris Payne, 74, the “grandmother jewel thief” who has been suspected in literally hundreds of jewelry thefts around the world for more than 40 years, has been arrested in conjunction with yet another jewel robbery.

Police in Palo Alto, Calif., accuse Payne of stealing a $31,000 ring from a Neiman Marcus store there after allegedly distracting a salesperson by asking to see multiple pieces of jewelry.

Payne was arrested in a Neiman Marcus store in Las Vegas after being recognized by a store security guard. The stolen ring was recovered in a Las Vegas pawnshop, according to press accounts.

Well spoken, polite, and usually fashionably dressed, Payne has served numerous jail sentences over the years. She is wanted in Illinois for theft and is on parole in Colorado.

A Denver Post article listed other charges on her rap sheet, which dates back to 1953: 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 and 1987.

John Kennedy of Jewelers’ Security Alliance, which has tracked Payne for decades, asks anyone who has been the recent victim of a jewelry theft by a gray-haired, 74-year-old, African-American female, 5 feet 7 inches tall, often wearing large sunglasses and possibly a hat, to contact his group.

“It’s highly unusual to have a 74-year-old out there allegedly doing these crimes,” Kennedy notes. “And the reason this works is: Who is going to suspect her?”