Sofia Coppola’s teenage caper ‘The Bling Ring’, out this week, details the based-on-true-events tale of a group of fame-obsessed pals who robbed celebs’ LA homes.
Aside from the Emma Watson-factor though, with audiences super keen to see how ‘Harry Potter’s’ Hermione tackles her new adult image, the most intriguing thing about Coppola’s movie is definitely the real-life Bling Ringers themselves.
The group of affluent teens managed to nab around $3 million worth of loot in less than a year – burglarising the homes of such high profile targets as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan.
It was a crime spree that shocked America, and not just because one the gang’s core members, Alexis Neiers, happened to have her own reality TV show.
So, who exactly were the real-life Bling Ring?
The Bling Ringer: Rachel Lee
Played by: Katie Chang
Called Rebecca Ahn in the movie, Rachel Lee was dubbed the group’s ringleader. After being expelled from Calabasas High School, Lee attended “alternative school” Indian Hills where she would meet most of her future gang. Fellow Bling Ringers claim Rachel was obsessed with reality TV and would rob the houses of celebs when she wanted new clothes. Lee eventually moved to Las Vegas with her father (whose house she reportedly decorated with art stolen from Orlando Bloom), but returned to California for one last burglary - the target being her “fashion icon” Lindsay Lohan. However Lee was anonymously indentified as being involved in the Lohan heist, with the actress’ stolen coat soon found at Lee’s Vegas house. In October 2011 Rachel was sentenced to four years in prison, but released on parole in March 2013 having served just 16 months.
The Bling Ringer: Nick Prugo
Played by: Israel Broussard
Known in ‘The Bling Ring’ as Marc Hall, Nick Prugo met Rachel at Indian Hills after he was also expelled from Calabasas. Prugo and Lee bonded over a love of fashion and partying, but it’s believed he soon became addicted to drugs. He reportedly began stealing from his parents to fund his habit, and he and Lee were thought to be routinely stealing from up-market properties and unlocked cars. Prugo later claimed because he and Lee were dressed so well, retailers never questioned where their credit cards came from. Nick was finally identified after his face was caught on CCTV inside Linsday Lohan’s house. In April 2013 Prugo was handed a two year prison sentence, however he received a year’s credit for time already served and was credited a further year for good behavior.
The Bling Ringers: Alexis Neiers
Played by: Emma Watson
Fictionalised as Nicki Moore, Alexis Neiers stated she was never willingly involved in a burglary, claiming she was often drunk and inadvertently found herself at the scene of the crime. An aspiring socialite, Neiers and her sisters had already filmed a pilot for their own E! reality show, ‘Pretty Wild’, at the time of her arrest. Despite being caught on camera leaving Orlando Bloom’s houses loaded with stolen gear, Neier’s reality show still (astonishingly) went ahead – documenting much of the actual Bling Ring trial. In May 2010, she was sentenced to a 180 day jail term (plus three year’s probation) and ordered to pay $600,000 (£394,000) damages to Orlando Bloom. She served just 30 days of her sentence, ironically in the same cell block as Bling Ring victim Lindsay Lohan. Later, in December 2011 Alexis was ordered attend 12-months rehab after she was arrested for heroin possession. Neiers has voiced skepticism over Coppola’s movie, commenting that “society is just as sick as these teens were”, and even criticising Emma Watson’s costume design.
The Bling Ringer: Courtney Ames
Played by: Claire Julien
The inspiration for ‘Bling Rings’ character Chloe Tayner, Courtney Ames, whose stepfather is boxer Randy Shields, was an old friend of Rachel Lee’s from Calabasas High School. Ames was thought to be responsible for recruiting Roy Lopez and Johnny Ajar (her boyfriend) as resellers for the gang’s stolen get-up. After later admitting to have received a jacket stolen from Paris Hilton, Ames was sentenced to three year’s probation and two months community service in December 2012. Several other charges against her, including conspiracy to commit burglary, we dropped after it was revealed the chief detective in her case, Brett Goodkin, had developed a conflict of interests… working with producers on the movie.
The Bling Ringer: Tess Taylor
Played by: Taissa Farmiga
Known in the movie as Sam Moore, and Alexis’ real-life adopted sister, Tess wasn’t directly involved in the Bling Ring crimes herself. Together with younger sister Gabby, the trio starred in ‘Pretty Wild’ as cameras followed the young socialites’ hell-raising lifestyle. Although the show inadvertently focused on Alexis’ trial, Tess’s modeling career was also in the spotlight and she was soon voted Playboy’s ‘Cyber Girl Of The Year’. ‘Pretty Wild’ was cancelled after just one season when Alexis was sentenced, and pics leaked online were believed to show Tess taking drugs. In January 2011 she checked herself in for a 12-month stay at a California recovery centre for addiction to “opiates”, but left the programme after just 30 days.