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Famed 83-Year-Old Jewel Thief Pleads Guilty To Stealing Diamond Ring

Posted: April 29, 2014

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Doris Payne's rap sheet dates back six decades. She walked into an upscale jewelry store last October and walked out with a $22,500 ring. On Monday, she was sentenced to four years in custody.

Doris Payne, then 75, poses in her cell at Clark County jail in Las Vegas on Sept. 23, 2005.

Doris Payne, then 75, poses in her cell at Clark County jail in Las Vegas on Sept. 23, 2005. Jae C. Hong

For many people, their 80s are a time for quiet reflection — but Doris Payne didn't get that memo.

The 83-year-old walked into an upscale jewelry store in Riverside County, Calif., last October and said she wanted to spend a $42,000 insurance check. She tried on necklaces, earrings and rings during two visits to the store that day, according to the LA Times, before settling on three pieces. One of them was a diamond and white gold ring priced at $22,500.

The woman then said she'd come back the next morning with the money. But later that evening, employees discovered the ring was gone.

On Monday, Payne, a fabled international jewel thief whose rap sheet dates back six decades, pleaded guilty to stealing the ring. She was sentenced to four years in custody, two of which will be spent in county jail and the remaining two under mandatory supervision. She was ordered to stay away from jewelry stores during that time.

Prosecutors had sought a maximum of six years in custody. John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney's office, told the LA Times that there were numerous aggravating factors, including "a criminal history dating back to 1952, crimes having been committed across the United States as well as internationally, that she used her age to gain the trust of victims, a previous failure to successfully complete probation and parole, and that she was on parole when she committed the crime charged in this case."

Payne said she was "very grateful" for the judge's decision.

We must confess we hadn't heard of Payne before this incident, but the LA Times notes:

"Payne's notoriety now borders on fame as her globe-spanning exploits have been featured on TV, in newspapers and in a documentary, "The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne." There has also been talk of Halle Berry starring in a movie about her life.

"Law enforcement officials across the U.S. said they had investigated her, recalling a demure, elegant woman who repeatedly conned unsuspecting jewelers and once listed her occupation in court papers as 'jewel thief.' "

And The Washington Post adds: "Payne acknowledges being an international jewelry thief with some 60 years of experience. She has worked under 20 aliases, she has been linked to five Social Security numbers and she has nine dates of birth on file, according to ABC News. Her Interpol record stretches back to the early 1970s and her U.S. rap sheet is nearly 20 pages long."

As she says in the 2013 documentary made about her: "There's never been a day that I went to steal that I did not get what I went to do. I don't have any regrets about stealing jewelry. I regret getting caught."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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