The ‘magic machine’ that caught fake Princess Diana

Princess Diana never stood a chance.

That’s who she said she was, anyway. But Harrison County sheriff’s officials found her out pretty quick.

Biloxi police arrested the 34-year-old Mobile resident and two others Wednesday on felony charges of shoplifting from Belk’s department store at Edgewater Mall. Police Lt. Chris De Back said officers caught them after they left the mall with about $3,900 in clothes, bedding and kitchen merchandise.

The woman in question identified herself as 37-year-old Princess Diana Franklin. Police officers fingerprinted her and hauled her to the Harrison County jail.

Deputies at the jail had her look into an iris scanner, standard procedure for all suspects booked, Warden Evan Hubbard said. Though fingerprints yield nine identification points, sheriff’s Sgt. Justin Richards said the iris scanner provides 750 identification points.

The patterns in a person’s iris are set in the womb and are exclusive to each individual, Richards said. In less than a minute, the iris scanner let deputies know Princess Diana is actually Elizabeth Franklin.

After her real identity was established, investigators found outstanding warrants for Franklin in Alabama — on hit-and-run and theft charges. So back to the Biloxi Police Department she went for processing on those charges.

Hubbard said the scanner, which the Sheriff’s Office acquired five or six years ago, is a handy backup to fingerprints. Fingerprints take some time to be added to the FBI database that law enforcement agencies use.

The iris scanner, Hubbard said, is one of the first things a person who is arrested encounters at the jail. Turns out Franklin’s iris had been scanned back in 2013, when Gulfport police arrested her and brought her to the jail on a felony shoplifting charge.

“Everybody that gets brought into jail gets to look into our magic machine,” Hubbard said.

Photojournalist John Fitzhugh contributed to this report.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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