Attention Tiffany's, Bulgari, Harry Winston, and the like...Luxury diamond jewelry and gemstone purveyors may be able to rest a little easier. The “Grandmother Thief,” a notorious international jewel thief, has just been convicted and is currently awaiting sentencing in California; the judge is likely to give her a five-year sentence.
"Who is Doris Payne?" This is the title of the upcoming movie depicting the life of one of the most intriguing luxury diamond jewelry thief’s of all time. Halle Berry is playing the role of Doris, a women who spent more than 60 years living off the resale of stolen jewels.
Doris was born in 1930 in the coal-mining town of Slab Fork West Virginia. When Doris was a young woman, she was desperate for money to help her ailing mother flee an abusive husband, so she decided to step outside the law, stealing her first jewels. Doris has since become known as the “Grandmother Thief” to the police, inspiring documentary filmmaker Matthew Pond to create this story of her fascinating life.
While she was a West Virginia native, Doris travelled all over the world stealing gemstones and other luxury diamond jewelry pieces from the most exclusive stores, including shops like Cartier, Tiffany’s and Bulgari. All over the world in places like Paris, Monaco, and Monte Carlo, police were stunned by her ability to easily distract sales people, long enough to make her way out the door with expensive jewels.
Doris would pretend to be shopping for these items. She would try the jewelry on, distract the sales person, and casually walk out the door. Doris made a point of never placing the luxury diamond jewelry pieces in her pocket; she would always wear them out of the store. This way, if she was caught, she could use her failing memory as an excuse. She would simply say, "If you forgot I had it and it's yours, you can't do any more to me. I forgot I had it on my hand.”
While clever, this line didn’t always work for Doris. She has an arrest record that is allegedly more than six feet long. While her longest stint in jail was a five-year sentence in Colorado (down from a twelve-year conviction), she has also answered for her crimes in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Nevada, and Kentucky. In fact, when she was last arrested, she told police her profession was, "Jewel Thief."
Doris may be watching her biographical film from a new prison cell. She was recently found guilty for stealing an $8,900 diamond ring from a Macy’s store in San Diego, California. Last January, the 79 year old woman lifted the luxury diamond jewelry piece from the Macy’s in San Diego, and then reportedly sold the ring for a mere $1800.
Convicted of both burglary and grand theft charges, her sentencing date is schedule for February 9th, and Judge Frank Brown is not expected to be lenient on the now 80-year-old woman. After viewing a video of the seasoned thief scoping out a jewelry counter at the Neiman Marcus in Scottsdale, AZ…while awaiting her trial…the judge has denied her bail, stating that Doris cannot be trusted and cannot stop stealing.
- 80-year-old jewel thief cased Neiman Marcus jewelry counter while awaiting trial, officials say (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- International Jewel Thief Doris Payne Awaits Sentencing (luxist.com)
- Woman, 80, convicted of $8,900 Calif. jewel theft (seattletimes.nwsource.com)