Hollywood's 'Bling Ring' Leaves Celebs Shaken
Roughly two weeks before a judge would sentence her to jail in July 2010, Lindsay Lohan sat in a downtown courtroom and recounted to a grand jury how a burglar's black fingerprints on her wall left her so unnerved that she had to leave her rented Hollywood bungalow.
Moments later, Orlando Bloom told the same panel how a break-in at his mansion had left him distrustful of those around him, especially after he realized his carefully hidden collection of watches had been plundered.
The June 2010, appearance of Lohan, Bloom and four other celebrities before a Los Angeles County grand jury went unnoticed. Yet their testimony helped indict five young people who authorities claim desperately craved what the stars had and were willing to cut through fences and climb through a doggie door to get it.
The stars' reactions, revealed in recently unsealed testimony obtained by The Associated Press, offers the most detailed account so far of the personal toll that resulted from the rash of celebrity break-ins by the so-called "Bling Ring" between October 2008 and August 2009.
The Bling Ring quickly gained notoriety in late 2008 for a pretty hefty list of burglaries — they allegedly stole more than $2 million worth of designer clothes and precious jewels from some of the world's best-known celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Bloom and Lohan.
CNBC's American Greed recently spoke with numerous investigators, attorneys and even Bling Ring participants about the heists.
"They weren't primarily motivated by money, they were almost taking pieces of the fame, of the people whose houses they entered," said attorney Daniel Horowitz.
It all started in 2006 when Nick Prugo met Rachel Lee at Indian Hills High School in Agoura Hills, Calif. The two hit it off quickly, and spent a lot of time together, allegedly even breaking into homes and unlocked cars, grabbing thousands in cash, and spending the money on extravagant shopping sprees along Beverly Hills' famous Rodeo Drive.
"From the time that they were in high school, the two of them committed untold hundreds of crimes," said Los Angeles Police Department Detective Brett Goodkin.
As their successful thefts mounted, Prugo and Lee started bragging about their crimes, and it wasn't long before acquaintances wanted to join them, police said. Courtney Ames, Diana Tamayo, Alexis Neiers and Roy Lopez Jr., rounded out the gang and together, they hatched a plan to get a piece of their favorite celebrities by breaking into their homes.
Police said the ring's burglaries of celebrity homes would start with Lee surfing the Web or flipping through magazines to scope out the wardrobes of stars. When she would spot something she liked, Prugo and Lee would log onto social networking sites and monitor the celebs schedules.
"People know when you're doing these huge events and they know when you're out on the red carpet, or, you know what you're doing and Twitter and Facebook is definitely an enabler for these people to get attached to your life or your lifestyle or what you're doing," said Bling Ring member Alexis Neiers, who also was a reality television star.
And so, through close monitoring of her schedule, police say the Bling Ring set its sights on their first celebrity target: Paris Hilton.
In October 2008, the Bling Ring allegedly cased Hilton's 7,000-square-foot Hollywood Hills home on the Internet, using a site called celebrityaddressaerial.com, which shows an aerial view of celebrity homes and charges $19.99 a month or $99 a year for a subscription.