Police: Notorious jewel thief arrested at Walmart

Doris Payne
FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2016 file photo, Doris Payne poses for a photo in Atlanta. Police near Atlanta say 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. A report from Chamblee police says 86-year-old Payne was arrested at a Walmart store around 5 p.m. Monday, July 17, 2017, and charged with misdemeanor theft by shoplifting. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — 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 say.

Doris Payne, 86, was arrested at a Walmart store around 5 p.m. Monday and charged with shoplifting $86.22 worth of merchandise, according to a report from Chamblee police. The charge is a misdemeanor.

Payne was the subject of a 2013 documentary film, “The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne,” that detailed her feats. In an interview with The Associated Press last year, she casually acknowledged, “I was a thief.” She’s well-known in fine-jewelry circles, and authorities say she has pocketed expensive jewels from stores around the world.

Her attorney, Drew Findling, noted that this case is different.

“This is a sharp contrast to all the cases in the past. We’re not talking about high-end jewelry,” 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 doesn’t list the items that Payne allegedly tried 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 employee notified an off-duty police officer working security at the store that Payne 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.

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 felony shoplifting charge after authorities said she tried to steal a $2,000 necklace from a Von Maur department 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 Jewelers’ 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 store owner let her try on watches and then forgot she had the jewelry on when he turned to wait on a white customer who had come in. She said she returned the watch but the episode made her realize 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 jewelry.