Doris Payne – Decades of Jewelry Theft

Doris Payne – Decades of Jewelry Theft

Jewelry Theft

Photographer: Joshua Sudock

Most of us, I would say, love our diamonds. Even if the only diamond you have, is on your engagement ring. Yet, how far will you go to get hold of beautiful diamond jewelry? Will you consider Jewelry Theft? Not likely, yet the “germ” of Jewelry Theft, was innocently planted in Doris Payne at a young age of only 13, although she didn’t steal anything then.

As she got older, the jewelry theft started and the 86 year old Doris Payne, was arrested again for Jewelry Theft, around the 14th of December 2016, near Atlanta.

Read the full article HERE

Diamond Engagement Rings

In April 2015, an article in The Orange County Resister, reported that Doris Payne never regretted the jewelry theft that she committed for decades. The article reveals how the decades of Jewelry Theft of Doris Payne began.

84-year-old jewel thief now homeless but still not ashamed: ‘I never took anything I regretted”


Written by Greg Mellen

There are no rings or bracelets on the arms of the 84-year-old woman almost universally referred to as a “notorious, international jewel thief.”

She wears no furs, no high-end fashion, just a tasteful black top and gray skirt. Her white hair is pulled behind a kerchief. She has nice shoes, but more often wears a pair of flats with a dime-size hole at the toe.

Nothing stands out about the slight woman, except maybe a quiet confidence.

Of course, that’s always been her trick.

Doris Payne is a changeling. She parlayed an ability to make people forget about her into a career as a top-end thief. Over the decades, she’s played many roles – young thief, young convict; older thief, older convict – but now comes the toughest: homeless.

The woman who once jetted to Paris on nine passports to lift diamonds and emeralds is, today, down and out in Long Beach, haggling with the Department of Public and Social Service for meager benefits and a place to sleep.

The woman credited with spiriting away more than $2 million in jewelry has traded chateaus for a motel room she can rent by the week.

The money is long gone. All that remains is her reputation, a feisty spirit and a resilient attitude.

Regrets? Nah.

“I have no remorse. Why? I ain’t killed nobody,” Payne said. “I never took anything I regretted. I had a good look at it and decided this is what I want. And I kept it.”

Then the twinkle comes to her eye.

“You want me to say I cried?” she asked.

“I can do that.”


Payne has been staying in Long Beach since October, when she got out of jail after doing time for failing to report to a probation officer.

A year earlier, she’d swiped a 3.5 carat ring worth $22,500 from a store in Palm Springs. Although sentenced to four years for that crime, including two in jail, she did three months before being released because of overcrowding.

That stint came on the heels of arrests in San Diego in 2011 and in Costa Mesa in 2010, when she tried to lift a $1,300 Burberry coat.

Her biggest haul came in the 1970s when, in Monte Carlo, she says she lifted a 10-carat diamond ring valued at $545,000.

That was the one time Payne worried she had outdone herself. After being detained in Nice, France, she was forced to return to Monte Carlo for the nine months it took investigators to complete their work. Although she was searched repeatedly, Payne said she was able to hide the stone in the hem of a girdle.

In the end, police couldn’t figure out how she pulled off the heist, though she says she simply stood up and took the ring from a box, despite witnesses swearing she never left her seat.

That, more often than not, was how it worked. If Payne has a special skill, it’s this – she can blend into the scenery. This was particularly notable for an African American woman who frequented establishments where, in 1950s America, blacks were rarely if ever seen.

But that skill is fading. In recent years, Payne has become a media darling. A biography is scheduled to come out next year, and in 2013 she was featured in a documentary, “The Life and Times of Doris Payne.” She’s been the subject of dozens of news stories and TV shows. And, over the years, there’s been talk of a feature film; Halle Berry was once discussed to play Payne.

She’s the rare thief with her own Wikipedia page. Still, over the years, law enforcement has been less charmed.

In 2011, San Diego Superior Court Judge Frank Brown sentenced Payne to five years – close to the maximum – for a felony theft. “You won’t stop,” Brown said at the time. “That’s the problem here. (You’re) a thief.”

Deputy District Attorney John Pro said Payne “has made a lifelong career out of stealing and taking advantage of people.”

Author Jervey Tervalon, whose biography for Harper Collins is scheduled to print next year, said, “She seems to have a mutant power of gaining the trust of people who shouldn’t trust her.”

Kirk Marcolina, one of the filmmakers who produced the documentary about Payne, told “Film International,” that Payne was “as charming, sweet and lovely as she is manipulative, cunning and shrewd.”

Celebrity, Payne says, has slowed her work as a thief. When she was in San Francisco recently, word spread through the jewelry community that she was in town. A store owner told the San Francisco Chronicle that when Payne came into his store the visit had “a kind of Jesse James feel to it.”

Payne scoffs at the idea, saying she never would have tried to pull a job the way she was dressed.

“I got on a pair of shoes that are tore out. Now, you know I ain’t trying to steal,” she said.

Payne said she experienced neither fear or excitement while stealing. Her motive wasn’t fame, either, she says. It was done for one thing – money. Often a lot of it. Payne’s method was built on simplicity. She would pick a store, the higher-end the better, walk in with confidence bordering on audacity and “shop” until she found a suitable item.

“I was a shopper,” she says with no sense of irony. “I’d take a good look and say, ‘This is what I wanted.’”

Then she’d hop in a cab and vanish.

“I can cause the white people to forget,” she liked to say.

Payne’s life as a thief started innocently. She was 13, being shown watches at a general store in West Slab, W.Va., when a white customer entered. Payne was told to “run along,” by the white store owner, who forgot the young girl was still wearing one of his watches.

Payne didn’t steal that watch, though she let the owner know she could have. But a germ was planted.

“I could make him forget.”

In her first heist, as an adult in Cleveland, Payne walked into a store and came out with a $22,000 ring. Payne says she didn’t know if it was real and misread the tag, thinking it was worth $2,200.

A pawn shop owner gave her $7,500. After that, she says, laughing, “I was off and running.”

Payne said the first time she was caught was when she dallied looking for a cab. However, when detectives brought her into the store, the owner would not identify her.

Payne surmises the owner wanted to collect the insurance on the jewelry. That, she said, changed her whole attitude about her victims. She believes they aren’t harmed, financially, by her crimes.

“I have no shame,” she said.

She does have kids.

Donna Swayne and Ronald Payne are grown now. Swayne lived with her father until she was 16, when she moved in with Payne.

“She was just mom,” said Swayne, 62, who lives in the Cleveland area. “She got up in the morning and fixed breakfast.”

A year after moving in with her mother, Swayne said, she learned of her mother’s profession when Payne was arrested and her story was on television.

Swayne said her mother’s crimes didn’t change their relationship.

“She’s my mom no matter what she does,” Swayne said, adding that the two are close and talk multiple times per day.

Swayne said her mother’s health is such that she cannot live in the cold climate of Cleveland, otherwise they might live closer.

Payne insists her criminal days are done, although she had made that claim in court a number of times before. She believes a book deal will help her financially, and being convicted of a crime would hurt her chances.

“I’m not going to jeopardize (the) publishing,” Payne said. “I think it would be a stupid thing to do.”

Payne won’t entertain the idea that such a deal might not happen.

“If it’s meant to be, it will be,” she said. “If my heart and soul are in the right place, I don’t have to worry.”

Source: The Orange County Register

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 Looking Great Ladies