International Jewel Thief Sent Back to Prison

Payne sentenced to five years plus restitution

Kris Sánchez vía Twitters

An international jewel thief who has inspired a Hollywood film was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison plus restitution.

Doris Payne, 80, was accused of stealing an $8,900 diamond ring from a Mission Valley Macy's store in January 2010, the latest in a 50-year-old crime spree that has spanned across the country and into Monaco, Monte Carlo and Paris.

"I don't know what else to say," Payne said in the courtroom. "I am truly sorry this went on as long as it did."

Payne added she believed the sentence was overly harsh and that she was being judged by the "attention of the media."

Payne's daughter, who wished not to be named, said Payne "is still my mom, and I love her." She added she is worried about her mother's health in prison because she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

"If she gets a chill, she will have heart failure," the daughter said. "It's happened before."

Payne discussed her past with NBC San Diego in an earlier, matter-of-fact interview.

“I was just a young woman who had made a decision to step outside the law," Payne said. “I had decided to steal jewelry."

Payne said she would simply put a ring on her finger and walk out.

"I have never in my life been stupid enough to steal something and put it in my pocket," Payne said. “What defense do I have if they stop me going out the door?”

While Payne wouldn't talk about the current case on the advice of her attorney, she did explain how she got away with so many crimes in her life.

"If you forgot I had it and it's yours, you can't do any more to me,” she explained. "I forgot I had it on my hand.”

Actress Halle Berry plays Payne in an upcoming movie, “Who is Doris Payne?”

Raised in West Virginia, Payne chose a profession that took her across the world, where she spent time "shopping" in Tiffany's and Cartier's shops, said Matthew Pond, a documentary filmmaker who has been following Payne for several months.

“She’s a fascinating character,” Pond said. “Her story is a great story, and she’s a great character.”

She has been arrested more times than she can remember. One detective said her arrest report is more than 6-feet long — she has done time in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Colorado and Wisconsin.

The most time she ever served was in Colorado, where she spent five years in prison for swiping a diamond ring from a Neiman Marcus store in 1998. Payne had seen the $57,000 gem in Town & Country. She wanted it. And she got it.

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