Culture

The Wild True Story Behind The 'Bling Ring' Gang Which Robbed Hollywood's 'It' Stars In The '2000s

Never forget Paris and her handbags.

By Lucy Cocoran
Netflix has dropped a new docu-series titled, The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist, which tells the story of the LA gang of teenagers who robbed the homes of several celebrities between 2008-2009. At the time, these A-listers were at their peak, from Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan to Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson — the robberies rocked the entire inner circle of elite stars, inciting fear and panic.
After stealing an estimated USD $3 million in cash and belongings, the group were eventually caught, tried and convicted for several counts of residential burglary. In 2010, a Vanity Fair article titled The Suspects Wore Louboutins was published, which retold the story in more detail than the world had ever heard it before. Three years after that, Sofia Coppola released a film titled The Bling Ring, which saw Emma Watson, Katie Chang and Israel Broussard star as the group's ringleaders.
It was, and still is, a bombshell story that reads more like fiction than fact, but no matter how wild the events may seem, they are wholly true, and now, for the first time, two of the original gang members are speaking out about it.
The Bling Ring group had seven members; Rachel Lee, Nick Prugo, Alexis Neiers, Courtney Ames, Diana Tamayo, Johnny Ajar and Roy Lopez,. Neiers and Prugo are the only two to appear in the Netflix documentary, attempting to set the record straight on who they really are and what transpired during that year.
Prugo claims he lived a fairly normal life until his family moved to the affluent Calabasas neighborhood where he quickly felt like an outsider. Couple that with him struggling to understand his sexuality, and he found himself in a dark place. After meeting Rachel Lee in high school, the pair quickly bonded over their love for the finer things in life, and began robbing unlocked cars cars to steal any credit cards or money lying inside.
In December 2008 Prugo and Lee robbed Paris Hilton's house for the first time. They searched the home address online, used maps to study the terrain and monitored the internet to see when the home would be vacant. Hilton didn't even notice anything was missing, so the pair returned again, this unlocking the door with the key under the mat and burglarising the house another 4-5 times. Her house was like their "personal ATM", but after robbing her safe, Hilton was immediately aware that she'd been robbed and reported it to the police.
They burglarised Hilton so many times that Lee reportedly added Hilton's spare key to her own keychain.
Alexis Neiers (played by Emma Watson in the film) became the most notorious group member, as she was filming a reality show with E! at the time of her arrest titled, Pretty Wild. Unlike Prugo, she came from an affluent family, with her father working as the director of photography on Friends and her mother, an ex-Playboy bunny. She met Prugo and Lee through her friend Tess Taylor, who Neiers' family had taken in as their own several years earlier.
On February 22nd 2009, (the night of the Academy Awards), the group robbed reality star Audrina Patridge's home and stole $43,000 of property. Unlike Hilton, Patridge immediately noticed, and submitted the home security footage to police which showed the gang inside. Unfortunately, they weren't identifiable from the footage, allowing their robberies to continue.
That same year, the group robbed Rachel Bilson stealing USD $300,000 worth of goods before selling them on the Venice Beach boardwalk. They also stole USD $500,000 worth of items from Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr's home and burglarised Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green's home.
The Lindsay Lohan burglary would prove to be their undoing, after she released security footage to TMZ, which produced countless tips and ultimately lead to the group's arrest. The group had made plans to rob the homes of countless other celebrities, including Ashley Tisdale, Hilary Duff, Zac Efron, Miley Cyrus, and Vanessa Hudgens but they were arrested before the plans could come to fruition.
Prugo was the first to be arrested, and while he initially denied any involvement, his anxiety eventually got the better of him and he confessed to multiple robberies. After his confession, Tamayo, Ames, Lopez, and Neiers were served search warrants, arrested and charged with residential burglary.
Lee was sentenced to four years in prison but was released after one year and four months, being released in March 2013. Prugo served just one year of his two year sentence, while Neiers was sentenced to six months in jail, three years of probation and was ordered to pay $600,000 in restitution to Bloom.
While many dream of the lavish lives lead by celebrities, few would actually go as far as this group to get it. As for how remorseful they feel, you'll need to watch the documentary to find out.
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  • undefined: Lucy Cocoran