Octogenarian Jewel Thief Strikes Again: Police

An octogenarian career jewel thief, responsible for heists from Monte Carlo to San Diego, has not given up on her profession, police say.

Doris Payne, 85, was arrested last Friday on suspicion of stealing a $690 pair of earrings from a Saks Fifth Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia.

A security guard told police he watched Payne on surveillance video as she walked into the Christian Dior section. She swiped the jewelry, put it in her pocket and walked outside to the mall, where security stopped her, police say.

Her former San Diego attorney Gretchen von Helms said Payne had outstanding warrants from Riverside, California, and Charlotte, North Carolina, when she was taken into custody.

By her own admission, Payne has been stealing jewelry from high-end stores around the world for six decades.

“The MO is getting you to give it to me and forget about it,” said von Helms, who represented Payne as she faced charges San Diego and Palm Desert.

Security video obtained by NBC 7 Tuesday shows Payne stealing a $22,000 ring from a store in Palm Desert. Von Helms said true to form, the thief admitted to charming the salesperson while trying on jewelry, and then she walked out with the ring on her finger.

In January 2011, Payne was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a $8,900 diamond ring from the Macy’s in San Diego’s Fashion Valley.

The thief’s personality and criminal prowess captured the attention of documentary filmmaker Matthew Pond, who chronicled her experiences in the documentary “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne.”

Raised in West Virginia, Payne chose her “profession” at the age of 23. It took her to Monaco, Monte Carlo, Paris and across the U.S., where she “shopped” at shops like Tiffany’s and Cartier, Pond said.

Her arrest record is longer than she can remember. Payne has served time in California, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Colorado and Wisconsin.

But this time, going behind bars would be more difficult with her age and major health problems, according to von Helms.

“I think it would be horrible, but the problem is if she is serving a sentence and becomes ill, she could very easily pass away,” the attorney said.

Once Payne is arraigned in Atlanta, she will be extradited to North Carolina to face charges.

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