My old friend, Doris Payne

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 Leave a Comment


News of a former Denver resident, who also happened to be my next door neighbor in our Highland loft:

A 79 year old international jewelry thief, whose story is the subject of an upcoming movie starring Halle Berry, is under arrest in Orange County.

Doris Payne was arrested Friday afternoon on suspicion of grand theft after security guards at Saks Fifth Avenue in South Coast Plaza say she stole a Burberry trench coat worth $1,300, according to Costa Mesa Police Lt. Mark Manley.

Payne is being held without bail on a parole violation. The district attorney's office says she is scheduled for arraignment Tuesday afternoon.

Payne's life as an international jewel thief is the subject of an upcoming movie, "Who Is Doris Payne," starring Halle Berry.

In 1999, she was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison after stealing a 5-carat diamond ring from a Neiman Marcus in Denver.


Doris lived in the loft next door to us in 2004-2005. We spent quite a bit of time together then. She had some pretty incredible stories to tell -- like how she stole a 10.51 carat diamond ring from Cartier in Monte Carlo, was arrested at the Nice airport and managed to keep the diamond hidden -- for nine months, while she was held in a hotel room overlooking the sea and the U.S. tried to negotiate a fair trial for her. Finally, she was released (some say she escaped) and put on a plane back to the U.S. When she landed in New York, she kissed the ground, booked a room at the Four Seasons, and headed directly to the diamond district to pawn the diamond.

In case you're wondering, a 10.51 carat diamond ring would stretch from knuckle to knuckle.

How did she steal it?

She called it "dressing up." She wore the right clothes, the right shoes, carried the right bag, and let the clerks make their own assumptions about who she was.

She would engage the clerk, get them to bring out several items, try things on. When the clerk was sufficiently distracted, she would walk out with the ring right on her finger.

That way, she could claim she had forgotten to remove it, if she was caught.

It would seem that Doris just can't help herself. She must be addicted to stealing. When she lived next door, she was on parole after serving 5 years in Colorado for stealing a $30,000 diamond from Neiman Marcus, in Cherry Creek. She had made a 50 year career of stealing diamonds, and at 74, I guess she couldn't help but do it again.

She stole a ring from Neiman Marcus in Palo Alto, flew to Vegas to pawn it, and was arrested there. She served two years in Nevada, then returned to Denver to serve some more time for violating her parole. I went to visit her every month last year, all through my pregnancy.

When she was released last April, California put her in jail for the Palo Alto deal. She couldn't have been out for more than a few months, and now this.

Doris, we still love you. And you made the pages of Perez Hilton! The movie studio must be thrilled. You can't buy this kind of publicity.

2 comments »

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  • Bill said:  

    Poor Doris! I would have thought the movie makers would have given her an advance to obviate her need to steal a trenchcoat. Hope Halle visits her in prison like you used to, Liz. You should get something for your efforts too.