An octogenarian whose six-decade career as an unapologetic jewel thief took her all over the world, but also landed her behind bars on more than one occasion, pleaded guilty today to stealing a diamond ring from a Palm Desert jewelry store.
Doris Marie Payne, 83, admitted one felony count each of burglary and grand theft and was immediately sentenced to four years in custody. She will serve half of the time in jail and the other half under supervision, defense attorney Gretchen von Helms said.
Payne, whose lengthy career as an international jewel thief was detailed in a documentary, swiped the 3.5-carat, $22,500 ring last Oct. 21 from El Paseo Jewelers.
One of the terms of her post-release supervision is to "stay out of all jewelry stores," Riverside County Superior Court Judge William S. Lebov said.
Payne and von Helms both asked the judge if Payne could continue to receive treatment for her medical conditions, which include respiratory problems. Lebov said she couldn't be treated at a Long Beach facility where she had previously received care, but said she should be able to get the treatment she needs in local jails.
Von Helms said Payne won't have to pay restitution because she told authorities where to find the ring -- at a secondhand jewelry dealer in Palm Desert. The defense attorney said she was grateful the judge "tempered punishment with compassion" by sentencing Payne to four years, instead of the six-year maximum.
She said her client might serve less than two years in custody once the Riverside County Sheriff's Department calculates the time she's already served for the Palm Desert case.
Payne had been out of prison for about three months, and was living in a Riverside motel at the time of the ring theft. She was on probation for felony theft in a Los Angeles case when the crime in Palm Desert occurred.
The general manager of El Paseo Jewelers, Rajendra Mehta, testified at Payne's preliminary hearing last December that the defendant came into the store on Oct. 21 and said her jewelry had been stolen. She looked at earrings, necklaces, loose diamonds and rings, and tried some pieces on, then said she would return with a cashier's check, Mehta said.
"Did the defendant put that (stolen) ring on her finger?" Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse asked.
"Yes," Mehta said.
He said his bookkeeper told him later that afternoon that a ring was missing, and an inventory conducted by employees confirmed it.
"Do you know who the last person was with the ring?" Lofthouse asked.
"Miss Payne," Mehta replied.
Employee Jodi Clapinski, who worked in the store that day, also testified she saw Payne try on the ring but did not see her take it.
Michael Jacobs, who worked at his wife's secondhand jewelry dealer business in Palm Desert, testified that Payne came in the day of the ring theft and said she had a ring she wanted to sell. He said she asked for $1,000, and he gave her $800. Sheriff's deputies recovered the ring there on Nov. 6.
According to Deputy Adan Yamaguchi, detectives identified the woman in El Paseo Jewelers as Payne using images captured Oct. 18 in Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Desert. A store security guard recognized her "from the company's run- in with Payne in 2010," when she was arrested for theft, according to Yamaguchi.
She's been held since then at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning in lieu of $65,000 bail.
In "The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne," which premiered a year ago at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto, Payne said her "methodology of stealing jewelry took me all over the world ... New York, Milan, Paris, Rome, London."
The documentary's website says Payne "is as unapologetic today about the $2 million in jewels she's stolen over a 60-year career as she was the day she stole her first carat."
The West Virginia native was young when she started developing her theft technique, telling an Associated Press reporter in 2005 that she would go into jewelry stores as a teenager and ask to see a wide variety of merchandise - - eventually causing the clerk to forget how many items she was being shown.
She said she put her technique into action when she wsa in her early 20s, stealing a $22,000 diamond from a Pittsburgh jewelry store and pawning it for a fraction of that amount. Eventually, she began dressing up in fancy clothes, putting sales clerks at ease by posing as a well-to-do customer.
Payne's criminal record includes:
- pleading no contest in June 2011 to stealing a $16,000 ring from a Santa Monica jewelry store, for which she sentenced to 16 months in prison;
- a January 2011 conviction for stealing an $8,900 ring from Macy's in San Diego for which she was given five years in prison;
- an April 2010 conviction for stealing a $1,300 Burberry trench coat from a Saks store in Costa Mesa for which she got a year in jail;
- a July 2009 grand theft conviction in Santa Clara County;
- a conviction for stealing an $8,500 ring in Nevada in 2005; and
- a 1999 conviction for stealing a ring from a Neiman Marcus store in Denver for which she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
– City News Service.