When 75-year-old Doris Payne was arrested in 2005 and charged with stealing a diamond ring from a Neiman Marcus store in Palo Alto before selling it in Las Vegas, Jewelers Security Alliance President John Kennedy told The Desert Sun, “If she’s alive, she’s going to be still stealing.”
Payne is still alive—83, and going strong. She recently got out of an Orange County jail after serving time for an unrelated crime and on Tuesday was arrested on suspicion of stealing a $22,000 ring from a Palm Desert jewelry store. “It was a sleight-of-hand type of thing,” a sheriff’s department captain told the newspaper.
That’s the way Payne has always worked, according to a documentary on her life and a lengthy portrait by Associated Press after her Las Vegas bust. She has plied her trade across the country and throughout Europe for nearly sixty years, charming her victims with beauty, elegance and intelligence. She glides in and glides out, often making her play right in front of the victim amid small talk of jewelry and casual exchanges.
Payne grew up in Slab Fork, West Virginia, the daughter of a coal miner. The family moved to Cleveland when she was a teenager and Payne said she started stealing in her early 20s. She stayed on domestic turf until the 1970s, before heading across the Atlantic to work in France, Switzerland, Greece, England and Monte Carlo.
She returned to the states and got busted more than a few times, her longest stretch behind bars being five years for taking a diamond ring from a Denver Neiman Marcus in 1998. One detective told AP that her arrest record was 6 feet long. Along the way, she used 22 aliases.
Matthew Pond, co-director of “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne,” told the Los Angeles Times he saw Payne earlier in the month and wasn’t surprised she stole again. “She's living in a hotel in Riverside. She has no one to support her. . . . So I wasn't surprised to the extent that she was very desperate financially.”
This time around, Payne was recognized by security at a Palm Desert Saks Fifth Avenue. They notified nearby businesses and three days later an elderly woman named “Audrey” dropped into El Paseo Jewelers up the block and asked to look at a few items. She left the store 20 minutes later, and the ring was discovered missing shortly thereafter.
Payne was arrested in Pomona and held in lieu of $45,000 bail. The ring has not been recovered.