Far Out Friday: 86-year-old legendary jewel thief’s insurance payout ruse

The well-dressed elderly woman dubbed Santa Claus’s wife used an insurance payout lie as just one of many stories in her 60-year thieving career

Far Out Friday: 86-year-old legendary jewel thief’s insurance payout ruse

Insurance News

By Maryvonne Gray

She may have been dubbed Santa Claus’s wife, but Doris ‘Diamond’ Payne has left countless jewellery store owners saying anything but ‘Ho ho ho’ at her actions.

The career criminal has travelled the world swiping millions of dollars’ worth of jewels from New York to Montecarlo.

Despite serving time in jail in several states and apparently swearing off crime, the white-haired, elegant octogenarian cannot seem to kick old habits, the Daily Mail reported.

Most recently, Payne was arrested this week for shoplifting a $1,995 diamond necklace in her back pocket.

One modus operandi she employed in 2013 was a line about receiving a $25,000 insurance payout.

Payne walked into El Paseo Jewellers in Palm Desert California and staff were immediately taken by the articulate but frail old lady who said she wanted to spend the insurance cash on a present for herself.

The salespeople fussed around her, helping her to try on gem-encrusted necklaces and rings and, when her hip began playing up, finding her a chair to rest her legs.

After making arrangements to complete her purchase of a diamond and white gold pinkie ring the next day, staff members helped her hobble to the door.

It wasn’t until hours later that they realised the $22,500 ring was still on her finger.

Payne sold the ring to a nearby pawnshop for just $800 where, as part of the sale, she had to give her thumbprint, which is what eventually tipped off authorities.

In 2014, she was sentenced to spend two years in jail and two years under mandatory supervision after the judge took pity on her age and ill health.

After an early release, she was at it again, this time for pocketing a pair of $690 earrings from a Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Atlanta.

Perhaps the judge in that case should have listened to the one from the previous case who sentenced her to the maximum jail term possible for the crime.

“You won’t stop,” Judge Frank Brown told her at the time.

“That’s the problem here… She’s a thief. She’s charming. Santa Claus’s wife, that’s who she is.”

Payne herself admits she has no regrets about stealing, only about getting caught.

The public has a longheld fascination for Payne, who was the subject of a 2013 documentary about her life, and Jewelers’ Security Alliance president John J Kennedy admits she is in a league of her own in the pantheon of jewel thieves.

“It’s extraordinarily rare for a criminal to have that lengthy of a career,” Kennedy said.

“Usually they either stop because they have enough money and they don’t want the risk anymore, or they’re dead.”

He said people often asked him about her, due to being fascinated or even amused by the elderly woman committing so many thefts.

“We’re all laughing, but it’s not funny,” he said.

“She goes in and she takes product from people, and it causes a lot of grief for people.

“I have long said that she is a career criminal, and I doubt if she has any interest whatsoever in stopping,” he said.

“When you’re that age and you’re still doing it, you’re not about to stop.”

Related stories:
Far Out Friday: Brokers predict Santa’s insurance costs
Far Out Friday: Pet insurance millionaire’s $1.87m private Take That concert

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!