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86-Year-Old International Jewelry Thief Doris Payne Arrested ... Again

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While the silver screen may glorify international jewelry thieves, the story plays out much differently in real life. Eighty-six-year-old Doris Payne, an international jewelry thief whose career has spanned six decades, was recently arrested in a Von Maur department store in Atlanta, Georgia trying to pocket a $2,000 bracelet.

Payne's arrest record dates back to the 1950s. Since 2010, she has been arrested seven times for various theft charges, all but one involving jewelry items. However, she gained international repute when she was alleged to have stolen a 10-carat diamond in Monte Carlo in the 1970s. Fortunately for Payne, the stone could not be recovered, which resulted in her release.

Unabashedly Doris Payne

This same Doris Payne was the subject of the 2013 documentary film: "The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne." The film details her life as an international jewelry thief as she "pinches her own version of the American dream."

Payne's modus operandi involved going into a jewelry store and trying on items until she believed the salesperson lost track of how many items were out of the case. When that magic moment happened, she would look for a distraction and then pocket a piece at the opportune time.

Penalties for Theft

Payne has been in and out of prison numerous times over her six decade criminal career. However, six decades is a long time, and unlike crimes like murder and rape, it is rare to see non-violent thieves get long prison sentences. Take for example the New Jersey jewelry store owner who was recently sentenced to a two year sentence, but was involved in a $200 million fraud.

Sentencing for theft or larceny charges will vary depending on how the crime is charged. In most states, whether these crimes are charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value of the stolen goods. Additional considerations that can increase the length of a convicted individual's sentence are: use of force, violence or a weapon, repeated offenses, sale/destruction of the stolen goods, and breaking and entering.

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