Everyone's Favorite 85-Year-Old International Jewel Thief has Been Arrested. Again.

Everyone's Favorite 85-Year-Old International Jewel Thief has Been Arrested. Again.

Doris Payne was recently charged with stealing $690 earrings into her pocket at a Christian Dior store inside a Saks Fifth Avenue in Atlanta.

It may be time for Doris Payne to consider retirement.

With a criminal record dating back to 1952, the 5-foot-5 octogenarian has seen her share of career achievements and pitfalls. Completing heists in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, Paris and San Diego, Payne has made both a name and a living for herself as an international jewel thief.

She is, perhaps, the oldest, longest-lasting and most elegant one around.

"There's never been a day that I went to steal that I did not get what I went to do," Payne said in the 2013 documentary "The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne." The clip shows her sporting a stylish blonde bob, purple eye shadow, large hoop earrings and a beige scarf slung over one shoulder - the kind of outfit that's been essential to her success.

To be sure, Payne isn't one to trifle with small-time, convenience store pilfering. She sets her sights on high-end jewelry, dressing the part of an affluent woman with plenty of dollars (or thousands of dollars) to spare.

Her alleged shoplifting this week was no exception, as she was supposedly caught in the act of slipping $690 earrings into her pocket at a Christian Dior store inside a Saks Fifth Avenue in Atlanta, WSB-TV reports.

"I think these officers just thought it was a run of the mill shoplifting," Atlanta police sergeant Warren Pickard said. "She put them in her pocket and politely walked out of the store."

After looking into her files, however, the authorities quickly realized what they were dealing with. "According to my research," Pickard said, "when she was 20 years old, she started committing crimes."

The running tally of Payne's mugshots and arrests are testaments to her prolific criminal activity, which she has herself acknowledged. According to ABC News, she has used 20 aliases, five Social Security numbers and nine dates of birth.

Payne was born in Slab Fork, W. Va. to an illiterate coal miner, according to the Associated Press. She was 23 years old when she completed her first major theft, swiping a $22,000 diamond from a jewelry store in Pittsburgh. (Payne has said that it all started because she wanted to save her mother from an abusive relationship, but evidently she got hooked on a life of lavishness.)

Soon enough, she perfected a routine of dressing well, carrying a designer handbag and charming store employees with her stories. Often, Payne was able to simply walk out of the store wearing the pieces of jewelry without attracting anyone's notice.

When she was 75 years old, Payne vowed to leave behind her life of crime - a promise broken almost as promptly as it was made.

Last April, she pleaded guilty to felony counts for burglary and grand theft after stealing a $22,500 diamond-encrusted ring from an upscale store in Palm Desert, Calif. Though she was sentenced to two years in prison and two years on parole, she was released after just a few months because of jail overcrowding, USA Today reported.

At the trial, her lawyer Gretchen von Helms had made a case for leniency. "The judge tempered punishment with compassion about her age," von Helms told the Los Angeles Times. "He took into account the taxpayers' pocket book. And do we really need to incarcerate a nonviolent offender - yes, a repeat offender, that's true - who's ill, who has emphysema, who's elderly?"

More recently this August, Payne allegedly stole a $33,000 diamond ring from a store in Charlotte, N.C., where the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department issued an arrest warrant after one of her famed sleight-of-hands, according to the Desert Sun.

Payne was released from Fulton County jail Tuesday on $2,500 bond. With the number of run-ins that have plagued her over the past few years, is there a chance that the "granny" gem thief will be trading in her handcuffs for an honest life?

Jean Herbert, a childhood friend of Payne's, offered an answer two years ago in the documentary:

"She sees something she wants, she will go and get it, and me, you, Jesus wouldn't stop her from doing it."

© 2015 The Washington Post

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