IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Bling Ring

A series of late-night burglaries at the homes of young Hollywood celebrities are caught on tape. The group allegedly committing them, now known as "The Bling Ring," made off with millions of dollars in designer goods.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

JOSH MANKIEWICZ reporting: (Voiceover) Welcome to Hollywood, where everything’s sped up, overhyped, airbrushed and botoxed. Where stardom is spawned by sex tapes. Where celebrity and its spoils go to the bold and the shameless. This is where money talks and everything else walks. Petty, ego-driven and competitive, it’s high school with better lighting. Meet the cool kids, movie stars like Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, along with the new “it” girls like Megan Fox, Ashley Tisdale and Rachel Bilson. But our story’s not about the queen bees, it’s about the wannabes, those not so cool, not so rich, and not at all famous kids who see Hollywood from the outside looking in. And it’s out of that sort of envy that the story of The Bling Ring was born, an unlikely collision of unknown burglars and their famous victims, set against the backdrop of LA, told through grainy video and some mug shots that don’t flatter.

(Vehicle on road; person exiting vehicle; turntable; palm trees; inside nightclub; neon sign; Beverly Hill sign; scenes around Hollywood; Paris Hilton; stars on sidewalk; Humvee; Rolls Royce; Sunset Boulevard; neon signs; vehicle; Hollywood sign; person in heels walking; vehicles on road; photos of celebrities; photo of Lindsay Lohan; photo of Orlando Bloom; photo of Megan Fox; photo of Ashley Tisdale; photo of Rachel Bilson; nightclub line; vehicle; people in line; flashes of photographers; vehicle; people walking; The Bling Ring graphic; highway at night; photos of celebrities; Los Angeles at night; burglary in progress; mug shots)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) We begin with an establishing shot, the Hollywood Hills, home of the rich and famous.

(Hollywood sign)

MANKIEWICZ: Let’s start from the standpoint that, you know...

(Voiceover) ...the Hollywood Hills are full of expensive homes, and on any one day some of them are getting broken into.

(Homes in Hollywood Hills)

Officer BRETT GOODKIN: There are a lot of burglaries. And, again, you know, the crook goes where the money is.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Our first character, “The Cop.” Officer Brett Goodkin has worked the LAPD’s Hollywood station for six years.

(Photo of Brett Goodkin; police station)

MANKIEWICZ: How much contact with celebrities is like part of that job?

Officer GOODKIN: It’s a big part of the job.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And over the past year or so, Goodkin says, some of these celebrities were finding themselves playing against type, as victims of a series of late-night burglaries.

(Police station; celebrities at events; Los Angeles at night)

Ms. LINDSAY LOHAN: (“Access Hollywood”) Just very violating. It’s not about the material things and the things that they took, because that comes and goes.

Unidentified Reporter: (News broadcast) The list of celebrities targeted in a massive burglary ring is growing this morning.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Who was committing the burglaries? Maybe drug users seeing random targets of opportunity. Or was this an organized team of burglars?

(Aerial view of homes; candle being lit)

Officer GOODKIN: There was no evidence that we had that suggested that there was a burglary crew working the Hills and targeting Hollywood’s rich and famous.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) So in the beginning the break-ins were all treated as individual cases, assigned to different investigators. There would be at least nine burglaries over about 11 months, and the list of victims would look like the red carpet at an award show: Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Ashley Tisdale, and Rachel Bilson, Megan Fox and her boyfriend Brian Austin. Audrina Patridge of MTV’s “The Hills” also made the list. And it was at her house, at least, that police got surveillance footage of the thieves. For investigators it was a promising break in the case.

(Aerial view of Los Angeles; police station; news headlines; people at red carpet event; Hilton at event; Bloom at event; Tisdale at event; Bilson at event; Fox and Brian Austin Green at event; excerpt from “The Hills”; outside house; burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: Any time you get real clear surveillance images of suspects committing crime, it always piques your interest because you’re really going to look very closely at those images. ‘Do I know these people?’ Are these criminals that we’ve had past dealings with?’

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) The images were clear, a guy with a ball cap and a girl in a white T-shirt. But investigators still had little to work with because they couldn’t put names to those faces.

(Burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: And in this case, they both seemed like young offenders.  Their faces didn’t speak to us at all. And contrary to, you know, television police shows, there isn’t really technology that exists that allows us to deliver surveillance DVD downtown and have a bunch of magical things happen to it and their names pop up on a screen. That doesn’t exist.

MANKIEWICZ: And you don’t know who they are.

Officer GOODKIN: We have no idea who they are.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) The loot that went out the door along with the burglars didn’t help narrow it down either. Stolen items included everything from designer purses, clothes, jewelry, and Chanel makeup, to cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Police say the total haul from all the houses broken into is somewhere north of $2.8 million. And in case you’re thinking, ‘Hey, these are celebrities and they can probably afford to lose some of their stuff, think about this:

(Burglary in progress; photos of items; monitors; celebrities at events)

Officer GOODKIN: Many celebrities lost family heirlooms, you know, pieces of jewelry, pieces of art. And most of those cases, they didn’t really have much monetary value to anyone else. It wasn’t about money. It was about, you know, ‘My uncle gave that to me.’ Or, ‘Hey, you know, the first time I ever got a job as an actor, I treated myself and I bought myself that and I really want it back.’

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) A few months later, yet another burglary. This time the victim was Lindsay Lohan. And, again, surveillance cameras were rolling.  It’s now three people, including a guy in a ball cap.

(Burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: (Voiceover) And for the first time, those images spoke to us because although there are three offenders for most of the video, their faces are obscured kind of comically with, you know, scarves and hats. There are a couple of frames in that video where you look at it and you go, ‘I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that kid before.’

(Burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: And because we have—we have a good team back there in Hollywood, we were certain among ourselves, anyway, that the male white offender in both videos, it was the same guy.

MANKIEWICZ: And that’s a huge break.

Officer GOODKIN: It was—it was great information, but we still didn’t know who he was.

(Voiceover) Now, the real break came when the stills from those two videos were posted on the Internet.

(Burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: And that generated phone calls to the department, and that’s where the leads started coming in.

MANKIEWICZ: People called and said, ‘I know who that is.’

(Voiceover) As they say around here, we’re about to cut to the chase.

(Hollywood sign; police vehicle; road)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Coming up...

(Coming up graphic; Dani Ley walking)

Ms. DANI LEY: I said, ‘It would be funny if we knew them.’ And then, come to find out, we know all of them.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) They were the fast crowd, not in Hollywood but in high school.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) In the Hollywood Hills, the lavish homes of bold-faced celebrities were being burglarized. Police were trying to find out who was behind it. On surveillance tapes the perpetrators looked like kids.  Could a ring of young people actually be responsible for the crimes? The answer takes us on location to Calabasas, California. It’s a moneyed bedroom community far from the Hills of Beverly. A place that’s quiet, verging on dull. At first glance, it seems like the complete opposite of Hollywood’s fast-paced scene, but just over the hill from Calabasas is Malibu and celebrities. If you’re 16 and star struck, that can make Calabasas a complicated place to live. Cut to our second character, “The Classmate.”

(Hollywood sign; outside houses; security camera; monitors; burglary in progress; photos on table; Calabasas sign; neighborhood; Beverly Hills sign; vehicle sparked; houses and road; outside houses; Malibu sign; beach; Mercedes dealership; houses; Ley)

Ms. LEY: You’re 16 years old and you see celebrities that have—they have everything, nice cars, cell phones, everything that they could want.

MANKIEWICZ: You see them because you live near them.

Ms. LEY: Yeah. Yeah. You can go to the grocery store and—yeah, I’ve seen Will Smith. I’ve seen Tommy Lee. I’ve seen Sean Astin from “Lord of the Rings.” I ate lunch right next to him at a restaurant. It’s common that you see celebrities in that area.

MANKIEWICZ: And you sort of get a peek at what kind of lifestyle they have.

Ms. LEY: Mm-hmm.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) But just a peek. Twenty-year-old Dani Ley here from Las Vegas and quickly experienced a culture clash when she arrived at an alternative high school in Calabasas. Dani quickly found herself on the outside looking in at a very fast crowd.

(Ley walking; Dani sitting on rock)

Ms. LEY: They get what they want, cars, cell phones, all that.

MANKIEWICZ: These are rich kids.

Ms. LEY: Yeah.

MANKIEWICZ: These are not kids who go out every morning at dawn for their paper route.

Ms. LEY: No. No. They have everything handed to them, pretty much.

MANKIEWICZ: We’re talking about a crowd of kids that drives, what, BMWs and Mercedes?

Ms. LEY: Yes.

MANKIEWICZ: And everybody’s wearing the latest fashion?

Ms. LEY: Yes.

MANKIEWICZ: Kids that nobody ever says no to.

Ms. LEY: Yes.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Officer Goodkin, who had been investigating the burglaries, has seen these kids, or ones just like them, all over Los Angeles.  He says they like to live large.

(Monitors; inside nightclub; Los Angeles at night; vehicles on road)

Officer GOODKIN: They like to party. They like to spend money. And they like to act like big shots. And, you know, acting like a big shot, that costs bread.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) In Hollywood, we’re talking clubs where it costs 35 bucks just to park your ride; and it’s not enough to just have a drink or two, real players have to splash out for bottle service at special tables, which can run $1,000 a pop. It’s an expensive lifestyle, and once you’ve gotten a taste of it, it’s hard to go back to the other side of the velvet rope where the losers are. Of course, Dani Ley wasn’t part of that group. But when she saw the surveillance video online of the suspects in the burglaries, she also thought she saw something familiar. Cops recognized this crowd from other burglaries. Dani knew them from recess.

(Nightclubs; people walking; street at night; man directing traffic; woman leaving vehicle; people walking; bar; inside nightclub; vehicle; inside nightclub; line of people; Ley sitting on rock; monitors; outside school)

MANKIEWICZ: What as it about the way they looked that made you think that maybe they were from a crowd that you were so familiar with?

Ms. LEY: There was just something about just the way they were sneaking in there, like it was no big deal, like they could get away with it. Like almost like they were entitled to get these things from these celebrities. It just reminded me of kids that I grew up with. And I was talking to my friend and I said, ‘That would be funny if we knew them.’ And then, come to find out, we know all of them.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) The first act of this drama had come to an abrupt end. It turned out Dani Ley wasn’t the only one who saw something or someone familiar in the surveillance videos posted online.

(Sunset; Ley sitting on rock; burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: People called and said, ‘Hey, I know who that is. Those two kids, that Nick Prugo. That’s Rachel Lee. And, you know, they’ve been bragging about breaking into homes in the Hollywood Hills.’

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Nick Prugo was 18 years old, a middle-class kid from Calabasas.

(Photo of Nick Prugo)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Home video) The secret life of the teenage boy.

Mr. NICK PRUGO: (Home video) Not quite.

Woman: (Home video) Getting ready for bed.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) When first arrested by police, he wasn’t very helpful. But a few weeks later, after he was released, officer Goodkin’s phone rang. It was Nick Prugo as “The Snitch.”

(Photos of Prugo; Prugo surrounded by police officers)

Officer GOODKIN: He called me and he said he wanted to set up a meeting, and Nick wanted to talk about crime.

MANKIEWICZ: And you like talking about crime.

Officer GOODKIN: Yeah. So it was, you know, match made in heaven. You know, let’s get together and Nick wants to talk about crimes that you know about, and maybe some crimes that you don’t.


December 19, 2008:

Paris Hilton’s Home

February 23, 2009:

Audrina Patridge’s Home

May 9, 2009:

Rachel Bilson’s Home

July 1, 2009:

Ashley Tisdale’s Home

July 15, 2009:

Orlando Bloom’s Home

August 23, 2009:

Lindsay Lohan’s Home

October 1, 2009:

Brian Austin Green’s Home

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Nick was offering to help police connect the dots.

In doing so, he outlined a crime spree that had lasted almost an entire year.  According to Nick, his main accomplice was “The Ringleader,” Rachel Lee, and 18-year-old girl from Nick’s high school. Known for her cute clothes and fashion sense, hers isn’t the sort of face usually associated with breaking and entering. Both Rachel and Nick were classmates of Dani Ley’s. Both were pick up on burglary charges. But they wouldn’t be the only ones rounded up.  According to Nick, the leaders of the gang were a clique of young women. And the supporting cast in this drama was about to get very interesting, a club promoter, Johnny Ajar, known to his friends as “Johnny “Dangerous,” an 18-year-old bombshell who just happened to be shooting a reality show.

(List of burglaries and photo of Prugo; photo of Rachel Lee; Lee walking;

Indian Hills High School sign; photos of Lee; burglary in progress; photo of Prugo and Lee; Ley and Indian Hills sign; photo of Prugo, photo of Lee; Lee walking; Prugo surrounded by police officers; photo of Prugo; photos of woman, people in court; women walking; Roy Lopez; Johnny Ajar walking in handcuffs; photo of Ajar; Alexis Neiers walking with lawyers; Neiers entering room)

Ms. ALEXIS NEIERS: I’m ready to move forward. I can’t wait to enjoy my life again.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Was the motive for all this about to become clear?  Maybe it wasn’t about the burglars. Maybe what they really wanted were the lives their celebrity victims already owned.

(Los Angeles; mug shots; celebrities at events)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Coming up, word slips out about the glamor-obsessed gang and their alleged crime spree. Shocking? Not to everyone.

(Monitors; burglary in progress; Ley; Indian Hills High School sign; photo of Lee)

Ms. LEY: She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Celebrities were coming home to find their LA homes had been burglarized. Starlets like Lindsay Lohan and Audrina Patridge are accustomed to appearing in the gossip magazines. But now they were being talked about as victims of a crime spree. Surveillance video recorded at their homes led to a tip. Soon Hollywood detectives found and arrest two suspects, Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo. Soon Nick reached out to Brett Goodkin of the LAPD. He says Nick laid out not only his version of a burglary scheme but also a cast of characters that could have been its own reality show.

(Highway at night; Los Angeles at night; houses; celebrities at events; magazine; monitors; photo of Lee, photo of Prugo; burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: We were able pretty quickly to determine who was who in the zoo, as it were.

(Voiceover) Whose job was it to do this, whose job was it to do that...


Officer GOODKIN: ...and who was involved but not really that much.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) According to Nick, Rachel Lee was the ringleader.  Just below her were with two sidekicks from school, Diana Tamayo and Courtney Ames. There was the local beauty, Alexis Neiers. And there were two older guys, a bouncer named Roy Lopez and Johnny Dangerous, who Nick says was the fence. Dani Ley had gone to school with Nick and most of the girls and says she wasn’t that shocked. She remembers Rachel Lee liked the finer things.

(Photo of Prugo; photo of Lee; photos of Diana Tamayo and Courtney Ames; photo of Neiers; photo of Lopez; photo of Ajar; Ley walking; photo of Lee and boy)

Ms. LEY: (Voiceover) I know that she won best dressed two years in a row.

(Photo of Lee and boy)

Ms. LEY: She always had like—she always had the cute shoes, the cute bags, the cute clothes. Like she looked more well put together than everyone else did.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Dani says Rachel’s friend Diana Tamayo was a good student, but to some she acted just like the characters in the Lindsay Lohan film “Mean Girls.”

(Photos of Lee and Tamayo; excerpt from “Mean Girls”)

Ms. LEY: I didn’t like her as a person. I didn’t think—I couldn’t trust her. I—she was a “mean girl” in high school.

MANKIEWICZ: That has a special meaning in today’s high schools, doesn’t it?

Ms. LEY: Yeah.

MANKIEWICZ: What is a mean girl?

Ms. LEY: Liar, backstabber, you can’t trust her. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Some of the other defendants said Nick was both the boss and the brains of this operation. But based on what she knows, Dani Ley doesn’t buy it.

(Mug shots; photo of Prugo)

MANKIEWICZ: So the Nick Prugo you knew was not some kind of leader of the pack.

Ms. LEY: No, not at all.

MANKIEWICZ: And when you hear that all the other defendants in this case were saying that he was ringleader, this was all his idea, that strike you as plausible?

Ms. LEY: I don’t believe it.

MANKIEWICZ: Who do you think was in charge?

Ms. LEY: I mean, I don’t want to say anything bad about Rachel because I didn’t know her too well, but if I had to pick one of them who would be the ringleader, it would probably be her.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) By now, they were known by several names in the tabloid world, including the Bling Ring and the Burglar Bunch. And they got plenty of attention.

(Headlines and articles)

Officer GOODKIN: (Voiceover) They looked very similar to the people whom they victimized, younger, well dressed, well groomed, normal, fashionable people.

(Photo of Neiers, photo of Audrina Patridge; photo of Prugo, photo of Bloom, photo of Tamayo, photo of Lohan, photo of Lee, photo of Hilton)

Officer GOODKIN: They looked like they were the cast of a reality show. And, you know, of course, now some of them are.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) He’s talking about Alexis Neiers, the 18-year-old brunette who’s already starring in her own unscripted drama called “Pretty Wild” on the E! network. It was a group of kids who wanted for very little.  They had money, clothes, cars, friends. But all of that wasn’t enough.

(Excerpts from “Pretty Wild”; mug shots; photos of Bling Ring)

MANKIEWICZ: Police say that what drove them to steal wasn’t hardship but, rather, a fascination with celebrities and the lives they lead, along with a bizarre belief that just touching or possessing the valuable items once held by stars they had never even met would somehow make these kids more like the idols they worshiped.

Officer GOODKIN: What is remarkable is that all of them possessed the same disconnect that, I don’t want to work for anything. I don’t want to get a job. But I want things and I want really, really nice things. And I’m going to steal them and I have no problem, I don’t have any hangups about taking what I want from other people.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Did this group from young suburbanites manage to crack Hollywood mansions for month after month? It’s hardly the sort of skill you just pick up at the mall. Was there a secret that literally opened the doors of the stars’ homes?

(Mug shots; burglary in progress)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Coming up, a high-tech open sesame and the, oh, so casual way the gang is said to have planned its high-profile heists.

(Computer; burglary in progress; outside houses)

Officer GOODKIN: (Voiceover) Rachel would choose popular female starlets that she liked their clothes.

(Celebrities at events)

CURRY: (Voiceover) And later on DATELINE...


Mr. GREGG OLSEN: Those sessions were like something out of “The Exorcist.”

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) The gossip magazines, the Web sites and the paparazzi are together, part of a machine, breathlessly chronicling every bit of Hollywood nightlife from dusk till dawn, and then all day long. They keep careful track of every celebrity’s every flirtation, every change of mood, every change of clothes. Does that help the stars? In same cases, sure. In others, maybe not. But in this case, that machine may have helped the burglars pull off their jobs every step of the way.

(Celebrities at events; vehicle; street at night; Los Angeles; Beverly Hills sign; convertible; Hollywood sign and stars; celebrities at events)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Which brings us to the action sequence, “The Heists.” According to court documents, this was “Oceans Eleven” meets 7-Eleven. Part caper, part quick stop shopping. First, according to Nick Prugo, Rachel Lee would look at celebrity magazines as if browsing a catalog, picking out accessories and jewelry that caught her eye. Early in the case, Sean Erenstoft represented Prugo.

(Monitors; burglary in progress; photo of Lee; magazine photos; Prugo and Sean Erenstoft at press conference)

Mr. SEAN ERENSTOFT: (Voiceover) And the idea was that Rachel would choose popular female starlets that she liked their clothes.

(Celebrities at events)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: And that’s pretty much how the sites were chosen.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Next, the burglars had to learn when the targeted star’s home would be empty. According to Officer Brett Goodkin, that wasn’t so hard to figure out.

(Outside houses)

Officer GOODKIN: So the criminal knows, hey, you know, I know that Josh is going to be at the Emmys every single year. And when he goes to the Emmys, he also likes to go to this afterparty and this afterparty and this afterparty.  And I know that because of this celebrity Web site, that celebrity Web site, this magazine. Then I’m pretty sure that he’s going to be gone between the hours of 6 PM and maybe 6 AM the next morning.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) But how to find the home itself? Today, that information is only a few clicks away. Web sites like Google Maps and offer detail, high-resolution images that anyone can access, kind of like those star maps that tourists buy on Sunset Boulevard, only much more accurate and much more useful.

(Outside houses; computer images; busy street; star maps sign)

Officer GOODKIN: (Voiceover) Because there’s one thing about looking at a star map with maybe a caricature of Zsa Zsa Gabor on it. It’s another thing to look at satellite imagery, high resolution satellite imagery of the home, how to get to it, trails that maybe lead up to a hill that you would normally not know about.

(Star maps sign; satellite image of neighborhood)

Officer GOODKIN: The stuff’s out there on the Internet. And it’s not the Internet’s fault. It’s not. Not everybody who jumps in a car is going to drive drunk and kill someone. Not everybody who’s going to jump on the Internet and use Google Maps or has a criminal enterprise that they’re supporting.

MANKIEWICZ: However, if you do?

Officer GOODKIN: However, if you do, it’s there, and in most cases it’s free.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) So with a target in mind, detailed maps of the home, and knowledge that the owner was away, they had only to make their way inside.  Like the great stars of the silent screen, the burglars captured in black and white at Audrina Patridge’s home let their actions do the talking. They’re clearly in no hurry, stopping to chat, making multiple trips into the star’s home, almost as if they knew she wasn’t going to be coming back any time soon.  They exit carrying bags of stuff they didn’t have when they went in. This wasn’t exactly disorganized crime, but it wasn’t “Mission: Impossible” either.

(Photo of Audrina Patridge; outside house; Patridge at event; outside house; burglary in progress)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: (Voiceover) Interestingly, only once was there forced entry.  And even then it was with a screwdriver to remove a screen. It would be Lindsay Lohan’s bathroom window. But for the most part, there’s always an access point without a lock or no—someone left unlocked. So at least one occasion the owner of the house left her key under the front mat. And when that key was found to be missing, replaced the key to the front mat.

(Burglary in progress)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) That was Paris Hilton, Erenstoft says. Her home was burglarized multiple times.

(Hilton at event)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: There became a slang. And Rachel’s slang would be, ‘Let’s go shopping.’

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Which, he says, meant that Rachel and the other girls looked for specific pieces they were going to wear themselves.

(Photo of Lee and woman)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: (Voiceover) So these kids would wear the fruits of their crimes. That’s pretty much a guiding light in trying to help get into the psychology of where this was going.

(Photos of Bling Ring members)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: The kids looking in had a lifestyle that they wanted to emulate.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) If true, it was almost as if they saw no difference between themselves and the actresses in the magazines.

(Hilton at event; Lohan at event)

Officer GOODKIN: This group of criminals was so comfortable. It’s almost like a sense of entitlement. This house, we have just as much right to be in here than the owner. Utilizing the Internet, utilizing surveillance, utilizing all kinds of things that are pretty advanced as far as tactics to accomplish this mission, which was to get the stuff.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) It’s the kind of high-tech know-how that makes your average Hollywood thief like Winona Ryder seem so last century, and it does show the kind of competitive drive that so many teens today seem to lack. Say what you want about the children of entitlement, this group wasn’t just sitting around the house. They went out and found a job. If you believe police, they found several of them.

(Winona Ryder on surveillance camera; burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: Any ambition that these kids did have translated into them becoming very, very good burglars.

MANKIEWICZ: So a job at Starbucks pretty much out of the question.

Officer GOODKIN: Yeah. I don’t think that that was their thing.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Today that shift at Starbucks is looking better.  Nick Prugo’s former attorney says his client had no idea what he was getting into.

(Prugo and Erenstoft at press conference)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: When Nick contacted me, he was concerned about what had been an outing for fun or outings for fun were now—he realized for the first time were pretty serious crimes.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Reality show star Alexis Neiers requires two attorneys to make her case. Jeffery Rubenstein and Susan Haber say she’s completely innocent.

(Neiers and Jeffery Rubenstein and Susan Haber; Haber and Rubenstein being interviewed; press conference)

Ms. SUSAN HABER: Alexis is an 18-year-old bright, educated and aspiring woman to make good with her life and to impact the lives of others in a positive way.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Translation: She’s a humanitarian, not a rich kid with no boundaries. And maybe, just maybe, she was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

(Neiers and Rubenstein walking; mug shots)

Ms. HABER: (Voiceover) She did not sign up for this.

(Mug shots)

Ms. HABER: This was something that she was brought into unknowingly and she was at a particular place and didn’t know what was going on at that particular time.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) But Alexis certainly seems captivated by the glamorous life. She’s one of very few burglary suspects whose life is being documented by a reality TV show.

(Neiers being photographed; Neiers surrounded by cameras)

MANKIEWICZ: Fair to say that she’s fascinated with Hollywood celebrities?

Mr. JEFFERY RUBENSTEIN: Who isn’t? She’s a young, attractive girl whose mother and parents were in the industry and certainly had aspirations of making it in the entertainment industry.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) The next act? In court. And you won’t believe the costumes. Coming up, the gang some say coveted all things celebrity now find themselves treated like stars.

(Neiers walking; court in session; mug shots; Humvee; Rolls Royce; Sunset Blvd.; Lee walking; Prugo walking)

Unidentified Man #1: (On street) You’re not looking at any jail time?

Ms. NEIERS: (On street) I’m going to say no. I’m doing great. Thank you for asking, though.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) What’s next? A red carpet? When DATELINE continues.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) We like celebrities in this country. We like to know all about them, how they live and where they live.

(Outside houses)

Unidentified Man #2: (Tour operator on bus) This is the home of famous pop star Christina Aguilera.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Police think this group liked celebrities a little too much, and it wasn’t long until the members of this mostly teenage band of brothers and sisters had been rounded up, and the cases against them were under way.

(People with faces covered; people walking surrounded by photographers)

Unidentified Man #3: (On street) Johnny, where were you hiding out this whole time, bro?

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) That’s Johnny Dangerous turning himself in to the LAPD. Johnny was not charged with any of the actual burglaries, but he did recently plead no contest to receiving stolen property from one of the burglaries and to two other felony charges. On most days, Alexis and Johnny Dangerous aren’t quite as big as Lindsay and Paris. But this day was different. Alexis’ attorney Jeffery Rubenstein:

(Ajar walking in handcuffs; monitors; photo of Ajar; Ajar walking in handcuffs; photo of Neiers; photo of Ajar; Lohan at event; Hilton at event;

Neiers walking with Rubenstein)

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: There’s clearly a blurring of the lines here. This is a case where reality meets reality.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) One by one, accused members of the Bling Ring were showing up in court and they didn’t seem to be showing much remorse. What they were showing was very little skin, but according to police, a fair amount of booty, as in, you know, loot. That’s Courtney Ames, who came to court one day wearing this necklace, which police say was stolen from Lindsay Lohan. By the time Courtney appeared in front of the judge, police had removed it from around her neck. Courtney’s lawyer says she didn’t know and couldn’t have known that the necklace was stolen. Police say this followed some of the defendants being seen out on the town wearing clothes that might have been borrowed. Remember Nick Prugo’s mug shot, that shirt he’s wearing? Police say it once belonged to Orlando Bloom.

(Prugo walking; Lee walking; Neiers and lawyers at press conference; Prugo and Erenstoft; women walking; woman walking; photo of jewelry; Ames in court; photo of Ames; photo of necklace; judge; Ames in court; police officer in doorway; Ames in court; city scenes at night; women walking; photo of women; photo of Prugo; photo of shirt)

MANKIEWICZ: They weren’t striking a blow against celebrities. They were trying to get next to them. I mean, this wasn’t—this wasn’t Robin Hood.  They weren’t stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. They were stealing from the rich, taking it home and wearing it.

Officer GOODKIN: Or selling it. They keep doing it over and over again. And they kept getting away with it.

(Voiceover) And they kept getting more and more things. Nobody seemed to notice. And had it not been for their own bragging about it...


Officer GOODKIN: bragging, their identities probably would have escaped us to this day.

MANKIEWICZ: And they’d still be doing it.

Officer GOODKIN: I have no doubt.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And then there was the defendant who came to court along with her own makeup artist so she could have a little touchup before and then after her arraignment. Introducing Alexis Neiers as “The Starlet.” There were reality show camera crews, bodyguards and press conferences.

(Neiers entering building; Neiers being made up; Neiers in court; Neiers and Rubenstein; Neiers; Neiers surrounded by people; people walking; press conference)

Mr. ERENSTOFT: (Press conference) of the case.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And each defendant pleading not guilty.

(Ames in court; Prugo in court)

Unidentified Man #4: (In court) Not guilty.

Unidentified Man #5: (In court) Not guilty.

Unidentified Man #6: (In court) Not guilty.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Alexis took it a step further. She chose to have her preliminary hearing as soon as possible so she could get back to focusing on her career. She’s being charged with burglarizing Orlando Bloom’s home. And in that case there is also surveillance video. Officer Brett Goodkin took the stand.

(Neiers and Haber; emergency lights; mug shots; outside house; monitors;

Goodkin in court)

Unidentified Woman #2: (In court) Do you see the names that are listed next to each individual? It says Prugo, then Neiers, then Tamayo, and then Lee, if you’re reading from left to right.

Officer GOODKIN: (In court) Yes.

Woman #2: (In court) OK. Who identified those individuals for you?

Officer GOODKIN: (In court) Mr. Prugo.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Nick Prugo told police that Alexis was with him at Orlando Bloom’s home and that this is Alexis in the video, along with Rachel Lee and Diana Tamayo. But Alexis’ version of that story, which she told police, is that she was really a member of the gang that couldn’t walk straight, that she was too loaded that night to know where she was or what her friends were there to do.

(Burglary in progress; Neiers in court; monitors; mug shots; Neiers; monitors)

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: (In court) How many times during the interview did she tell you she was so drunk that night?

Unidentified Man #7: (In court) It was more than once.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Neiers claimed that while her friends were stealing Orlando Bloom’s stuff, she was outside throwing up in his yard.

(Foliage at night; burglary in progress; people on street)

Man #7: (In court) She stated she did not feel well.

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: (In court) That she was so intoxicated that she walked outside and threw up in the bushes, correct?

Man #7: (In court) Correct.

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: (In court) And then went to the bathroom in the bushes, peed in the bushes?

Man #7: (In court) That was her statement, yes.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Police say the evidence suggests otherwise.

(Emergency lights; burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: ‘These aren’t my pants.’ You know, that’s the classic. You just—you arrest the guy, you find a gun on him in his pants, you find narcotics in his pants, you find a severed head in his pants. ‘These aren’t my pants.’ So you can say whatever you like, but a judge signed a search warrant for that young lady’s home and in that home we found property belonging to three of our victims.

Woman #2: (In court) Approximately how many times, do you recall, is Ms.  Neiers seen in the video surveillance making trips between the residence and the vehicles?

Officer GOODKIN: (In court) Ms. Neiers is seen in the video leaving Mr.  Bloom’s property three times, two of which she’s visibly holding a large amount of property, and returning the same amount of times back to the property.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) So drunk or not, she’s going to stand trial. Is she worried? You be the judge.

(Neiers in court; Neiers and woman walking)

Man #1: (On street) You’re not looking at any jail time for you...

Ms. NEIERS: (On street) I highly doubt it. I’m going to say no.

Man #1: (On street) You’re going to say no?

Ms. NEIERS: (On street) I’m going to say no. I’m doing great. Thank you for asking, though.

Man #1: (On street) All right.

MANKIEWICZ: All of it sort of suggests that, you know, the reality show is king here and that she’s not taking the charges terribly seriously.

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: We’re talking about somebody that’s very frightened, terrified, taking this very seriously, participating in her defense. And the reality show just happens to be her career. If somebody was an airline pilot and they were facing a criminal charge, would you expect them to stop flying?  If somebody was, you know, a doctor, would you expect them to stop seeing patients?

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And, of course, in the reality show universe, going to jail would be just another plot twist. Just ask law breaker turned victim Paris Hilton. But for these defendants, the danger is that just as Paris was at the time, they’ll be perceived as rick, spoiled, children of privilege who think they don’t have to obey the same laws the rest of us do.

(Crowd of people; Hilton walking; members of Bling Ring; Hilton walking; members of Bling Ring; people; burglary in progress)

Officer GOODKIN: The point is not whether or not while they were committing felony residential burglary did they party in the house or they had fun.  Because that wasn’t their goal. Their goal was to break into people’s homes in the middle of the night and take as much as they could. And they weren’t happy enough just to do it once. They would go to the same house over and over and over again.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And before you laugh this off, think about how you’d feel about someone breaking into your home. For these celebrities, it was a sudden dose of the real world.

(Monitors; outside houses; celebrities at events)

Ms. LOHAN: (“Access Hollywood”) Just very violating.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Coming up, for the first time, one of the defendants speaks out.

(Monitors; Lopez in court)

Mr. ROY LOPEZ: They’re pointing the finger at me and saying this and that.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Coming up, and exclusive interview and a coming attraction. What’s next for the gang?

(Lopez; Neiers and woman walking; crowd of people at night)

Mr. DAVID DIAMOND: I think the belief is that you’re going to somehow be famous from this incident.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And later, in our second hour, Twisted Faith. It was a vibrant young church with a vital young pastor.

(Twisted Faith graphic; church; photo of groups of people, inside empty church; photos of man)

Mr. CRAIG ANDERSON: You just were awestruck by this guy.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And his lovely, lonely wife.

(Photo of couple; photo of woman; cross)

Ms. ANDERSON: She was young and innocent and bright and kind.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Soon, tragedy. The pastor’s wife died in a fire.  And that’s when the strange things began. One by one, they fell under his spell.

(Photo of women; family photo; newspaper headline; house and flames; moon; stain-glassed window; inside empty church; photo of man)

Detective SUE SCHULTZ: They’re housewives, they’re mothers.

(Voiceover) They’re upstanding women.

(Photos of women)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Keeping his secret.

(Photo of man; photo of couple kissing)

Det. SCHULTZ: (Voiceover) What was it that allowed these women to go against everything that they believed in?

(Typed document)

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Temptation, adultery, and maybe something even worse.

(Photo of man; typed document; bed; clouds and foliage)

Ms. ANDERSON: It wrecked me. It completely destroyed me.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Was there evil among them?

(Outside church; photo of group of people)

Ms. DIANA PARMELE: There is God. There is also a devil.

MANKIEWICZ: And this was the devil.


MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) When the first headlines came out about the celebrity burglary gang from Calabasas, it sounded almost like a fun heist movie. And let’s face it, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Paris Hilton crowd. But as Lindsay Lohan told “Access Hollywood,” being burglarized feels like a huge invasion of privacy, no matter who you happen to be.

(Lee surrounded by photographers; Erenstoft interviewed; headlines and articles; outside house; burglary in progress; Hilton walking; burglary in progress)

Mr. LOHAN: (“Access Hollywood”) Just very violating. It’s not about the material things and the things that they took, because that comes and goes.  It’s more about the fact that how things were placed, how it was done.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Audrina Patridge of “The Hills” wrote in her blog, “It was pretty devastating. Most of the items are replaceable, but they took off with a few very sentiment things, too.” And Paris Hilton told TMZ...

(Photo of Audrina Patridge; blog page; Hilton walking)

Unidentified Man #8: (TMZ) So what do you think about them getting caught?

Ms. PARIS HILTON: (TMZ) They’re scumbags.

Man #8: (TMZ) Aren’t they?

Ms. HILTON: (TMZ) Yep.

Man #8: (TMZ) How you think you should do in jail? How much jail—jail time?

Ms. HILTON: (TMZ) Ten years.

Unidentified Man #9: (TMZ) Paris, what would you do the Burglar Bunch if you had a chance?

Ms. HILTON: (TMZ) They’re a bunch of dirty rotten thieves.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Paris had good reason to be angry. Police say the Burglar Bunch hit her home at least three separate times. Finally, security cameras on the property captured an image of a man entering her front door.

(Photo of Hilton with jewelry; burglary in progress)

Mr. LOPEZ: They’re pointing the finger at me and saying this and that.

Taking advantage? Yes. You know, lied about? Yes.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Police say the guy on video is this man, Roy Lopez.  He sat down exclusively with DATELINE to explain his side of the story. Lopez is being charged, along with Nick Prugo, Rachel Lee and Courtney Ames, with stealing about $2 million worth of Paris Hilton’s jewelry, family heirlooms and other items. Lopez says he’s innocent. In this story, is he “The Patsy”?

(Photo of Lopez; Lopez being interviewed; Bling Ring members; photo of Hilton and jewelry; Lopez)

MANKIEWICZ: You ever do any break-ins with these people?

Mr. LOPEZ: No.

MANKIEWICZ: There’s a security video that police say is you breaking into Paris Hilton’s house. Is that you?

Mr. LOPEZ: No, that is not me.

MANKIEWICZ: Then how did you come to have a considerable amount of stolen merchandise in your possession?

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) That’s a question Roy won’t answer before trial. His attorney, David Diamond.

(Lopez being interviewed)

Mr. DIAMOND: There are people that perhaps thought that after they committed this burglary they could give the items to Roy and he could somehow make a profit from them or help them sell it or pawn it, whatever it might be.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) After Nick fingered him and police grabbed him, Roy did turn over all that jewelry to police, who are now charging him not with possession of stolen property but just that one count of breaking into Paris Hilton’s home.

(Photo of Lopez and photo of jewelry; burglary in progress)

MANKIEWICZ: Your position is that you did the right thing and you returned the stolen loot to the police.

Mr. LOPEZ: Correct.

MANKIEWICZ: Do you wish you hadn’t done that? Because if you hadn’t, if you had just thrown it out, maybe nobody would know your name today.

Mr. LOPEZ: You know, if I had known, I wouldn’t have taken it, you know, to begin with. So therefore, if it’s not mine, it doesn’t belong to me, I give it back.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Roy Lopez’s history doesn’t really fit with the rest of the Burglar Bunch. He didn’t grow up in Calabasas. He doesn’t come from middle-class family, and he says he never partied with the rest of the group.  He doesn’t drive a fancy car or any car.

(Mug shots; photo of Lopez; vehicle)

Mr. LOPEZ: I’ve been riding the trans—public transportation or my bike. On the other hand, like I said, they appear to be driving around in nice cars.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) His is not a story of a privileged life.


Mr. LOPEZ: (Voiceover) You know, I work, and I work hard. I come in on my days off.

(Lopez looking at traffic)

Mr. LOPEZ: I come in when they need—when they have a special event for extra hours, you know, and I do what I can. I was trying to put myself through school. I’ve been staying on friends’ couches. And before this happened, for over a year...

MANKIEWICZ: Because you can’t afford a place of your own.

Mr. LOPEZ: I can’t afford a place of my own, correct. And due to this whole situation, I’m now living in a shelter.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Lopez says he only knew Courtney Ames from working with her at the Sagebrush Cantina, where he was a bouncer, and only saw Nick Prugo, Rachel Lee and the others when they would pick up Courtney from the restaurant on their way to Hollywood.

(Photo of Ames, photo of Lopez; outside Sagebrush Cantina; photo of Lopez; mug shots; outside restaurant)

MANKIEWICZ: Do you know how to sell stolen merchandise? Do you have some connection?

Mr. LOPEZ: No. None at all.

Mr. DIAMOND: One of the things that Mr. Prugo alleges to—as per the police report—is that he was in contact with Roy and they had this relationship about selling stolen goods and whatnot. But later on, in part of his quasi admission, he states that he had no way to ever get in contact with Roy or communicate with him. So it’s an unlikely source to pawn off stolen goods or fence stolen goods if it’s somebody if you have no way of communicating with wheresoever.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) Roy and his lawyer believe that his background, his lack of resources and a couple of brushes with the law, make him the obvious fall guy, as opposed to the fresh-faced kids from Calabasas who committed this case armed with all the advantages.

(Diamond, Mankiewicz and Lopez talking; Los Angeles at night; emergency lights; photo of Lopez; mug shots)

Mr. DIAMOND: (Voiceover) I think Nicholas Prugo is the ringleader in this case. I think that whether it’s his fault or those advising him, the belief is that you’re going to somehow be famous from this incident. And I think it’s sad, to some degree, because after he goes to state prison for five, six years, I don’t think anyone is going to remember who he is.

(Prugo going through door; Prugo entering vehicle; outside prison)

Mr. DIAMOND: But I think it’s clear that there is the Bling Ring plus one in a sense, because Roy’s not part of this group.

Man #1: (On street) So who’s the mastermind of this? Whose idea was it to break in to celebrities’ houses?

Ms. NEIERS: (On street) Well, I think we all know the answer to that question.

Man #1: (On street) All right.

Unidentified Woman #3: (On street) I’m pretty sure that’s been made very clear.

Ms. NEIERS: (On street) Pretty much. Let’s just—it was the male of the group.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) And that’s pretty much the same argument being made by most of defendants, ‘It wasn’t me. I wasn’t there. And if I was there, I didn’t know what I was doing.’

(Neiers and woman walking; monitors)

MANKIEWICZ: It’s not uncommon for multiple defendants charged with the same crime to be making essentially the same argument, which was, ‘I didn’t—I wasn’t in charge here. I wasn’t the ringleader. This wasn’t my doing. This was the doing of somebody else.’ I mean, that’s fairly common in criminal law.

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: There’s even an acronym for it. They call it the SODDI defense.


Mr. RUBENSTEIN: Some other dude did it.

MANKIEWICZ: (Voiceover) This started out as the story of a few people who were famous and some others who were not. Now everyone’s famous, and for some that means a career opportunity. For others, it’s a life-wrecking disaster.  And how it ends could well be decided not by a TV audience but by a judge and jury. Remember, this is Hollywood, where evidence might be the only thing that can’t be rewritten.

(Beverly Hills sign; star maps sign; Hollywood stars; celebrities at events; mug shots; Prugo walking with police officer; Neiers and Rubenstein walking;

Lopez walking; press conference; court in session; Hollywood sign; emergency lights; crime scene tape; monitors)