From high-end jewels to Walmart: notorious thief Doris Payne arrested for US$86 misdemeanour

Police have not detailed the items she stole while on probation for previously trying to lift a US$2,000 necklace

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2017, 7:13pm

A notorious jewel thief with an illicit career spanning six decades has been caught stealing again, but she wasn’t after sparkly gems this time, police near Atlanta said.

Doris Payne, 86, was arrested at a Walmart store at about 5pm on Monday and charged with shoplifting US$86.22 worth of merchandise, according to a report from Chamblee police. The charge is a misdemeanour.

Payne was the subject of a 2013 documentary film titled The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, which detailed her feats.

She is well-known in fine-jewellery circles, with authorities saying she has pocketed expensive jewels from stores around the world.

Her lawyer, Drew Findling, said that this case is different.

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We’re not talking about high-end jewellery... We’re talking about what an 86-year-old woman needs to survive
Drew Findling

“This is a sharp contrast to all the cases in the past. We’re not talking about high-end jewellery,” he said. “We’re talking about what an 86-year-old woman needs to survive on a day-to-day basis, food supplies and medical supplies.”

The police report did not list the items that Payne is accused of trying to steal.

Findling said he’s reviewed the police report but still needs to watch surveillance video footage to see what happened.

Payne’s latest arrest came after a Walmart store employee notified an off-duty police officer, who was working security, that Payne had visited the pharmacy, electronics and grocery departments. She put some items in her shopping cart but hid others in her purse and a Walmart shopping bag, the employee said.

Payne then went to a register and paid for the items in her shopping cart, but not the items in her shopping bag and purse, the employee said. When she tried to exit the store the employee and the off-duty officer stopped her.

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When Payne was booked into the Chamblee jail, police discovered she was wearing an electronic ankle monitor because she was on probation from a prior arrest in DeKalb County. She pleaded guilty in March to a shoplifting charge after authorities said she tried to steal a US$2,000 necklace from a Von Maur store in December.

She bonded out of the Chamblee jail and was likely to be booked into the DeKalb County jail for charges of violating her probation, Findling said, adding that he’d like to get things cleared up as quickly as possible.

Payne was about 10 days shy of having the ankle monitor removed and had been complying with her probation before this arrest, Findling said.

Payne was raised in West Virginia and moved with her family to Ohio when she was a teenager.

Authorities have said she has used at least 22 aliases over the years and probably got away more often than she was caught, though she has done several stints in prison. The Jewellers’ Security Alliance, an industry trade group, sent out bulletins as early as the 1970s warning about her.

Payne told the AP she was a child when a friendly store owner let her try on watches and then forgot she had the jewellery on. She said she realised then that a simple distraction could make it easy to slip out with a fancy trinket in hand. Her career began in her 20s when she got the idea that she could support herself by lifting jewellery.