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  • Crime doesn't pay    April 29 
83-year-old jewel thief pleads guilty to stealing $22,500 diamond ring

Doris Payne likes to take gems that aren't hers, and she's proud of it; she once listed "jewel thief" as her occupation in court papers. On Monday, the 83-year-old, who has a rap sheet that dates back to 1952, pleaded guilty to stealing a $22,500 diamond ring from a ritzy Palm Springs, California, jewelry store.

Payne was sentenced to four years in custody — two under mandatory supervision and two in county jail. She must also stay away from all jewelry stores. Payne's lawyer, Gretchen von Helms, says she thinks that was fair. "The judge tempered punishment with compassion about her age," she told the Los Angeles Times. "He took into account the taxpayers' pocketbook. And do we really need to incarcerate a nonviolent offender — yes, a repeated offender, that's true — who's ill, who has emphysema, who's elderly?"

Payne is known around the world for her exploits, and for being unapologetic about her crimes. She's been the subject of a documentary (watch the trailer below), and rumors are spreading that Halle Barry will portray her in a movie. In her latest caper, Payne visited El Paseo Jewelers twice last October, telling employees that she had a $42,000 insurance check to spend. She selected three items to purchase, and promised to return the next day with the money. That night, employees realized the ring was gone, and by that point Payne had already hocked it for $800 at a pawn shop.

Von Helms is hopeful that her octogenarian client has finally learned her lesson this time, since Payne did help authorities track down the ring and promised to pay the pawn shop back. "I think she has good intentions," the lawyer said. "I know we have to take that with a grain of salt, given her history. She can't just say those words; she has to prove it with actions." --Catherine Garcia

 
 
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