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Doris Payne Apexchange
diamonds are forever

85-year-old jewel thief arrested - 10 years after swearing she'd retired

Doris Payne was arrested after allegedly pocketing a pair of earrings.

TEN YEARS AGO, when she was 75 years old, Doris Payne swore she was done with a lifetime of pilfering jewels across two continents.

Several arrests later, in 2013, she said again that she was leaving that life behind.

Police say Payne, now 85, is at it again: She was recently arrested and charged with pocketing a $690 pair of earrings from a Saks Fifth Avenue department store at a mall in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighbourhood.

Payne is said to have committed countless thefts over six decades in the US and Europe and has discussed her exploits in media interviews over the years.

A store security guard watching surveillance video saw Payne enter a Christian Dior boutique inside the department store and take the earrings from a standing shelf before quickly leaving, the police report says. She was arrested in the mall, and the earrings were found in her pocket, the report says.

She faces a charge of theft by shoplifting and was booked into the Fulton County jail. She is also wanted on a warrant for a similar offense by the sheriff’s office in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, and will face extradition, police said.

Shawn McCullers, a lawyer for Payne, said his client has health concerns that need to be taken care of, but he did not elaborate.

The daughter of an illiterate coal miner, Payne was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia. When she was 23, she walked out of a Pittsburgh jewellery store with a diamond valued at $22,000, kicking off a criminal career that would land her behind bars multiple times, including a nearly five-year prison stint in Colorado, she told The Associated Press in 2005.

She developed a winning strategy — dressing nicely, carrying a designer handbag and arming herself with a detailed story — that she used to charm jewellery store employees.

Faced with a well-to-do woman with money to spend, store employees would relax their rules and bring out multiple high-value pieces at once, and Payne would quickly slip the expensive baubles on and off until the employee lost track and she could easily leave with one in hand.

Through the years, authorities have said she has used at least 22 aliases and probably got away with her crimes more often than she got caught.

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Associated Foreign Press
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