Sofia Coppola’s latest minor opus about the perils and pitfalls of being (actually criminally this time) plagued by ennui and blind ambition, The Bling Ring, opens in limited release this week. Based on one of those “only in Hollywood” stories that, in fact, really only could and did happen in Hollywood, The Bling Ring tells a vaguely fictionalized version of the life and times of a ring of fame-obsessed teen burglars who broke into the houses of a number of big name stars in 2008 and 2009. The ring made away with the clothes, jewelry, accessories, artwork, and cash of celebs like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr, Brian Austin Green, Megan Fox, and Audrina Patridge (yes, the terms “celeb” and “star” are used somewhat loosely as it applies to a few of the victims), until they were finally caught by way of surveillance footage and anonymous tipsters.
“The Bling Ring” itself is weird enough, and while The Bling Ring the movie never quite digs deep enough into what made the teen criminals do what they did (beyond wanting cool clothes and rightly assuming that Paris Hilton was too stupid to lock her front door), it’s still a nice addition to Coppola’s resume and a nifty addendum to some real life strange crime. How strange is it? One of the major players in the ring, Alexis Neiers (brilliantly played in the film by Emma Watson), was in the middle of filming her own reality show (titled Pretty Wild, amazingly enough) when she was arrested for the robberies. And, yes, Neiers was also the ring member who served part of her prison sentence in a cell next to Lohan, one of her own victims. See, weird.
But have the lives of the real life “Bling Ring” gotten any less strange since their Perez Hilton-chronicled crime spree? Let’s find out.
Rachel Lee (“Rebecca”) as played by Katie Chang
While Alexis Neiers is typically the name most often associated with the Bling Ring simply due to her notoriety and own “fame,” it was actually Lee who served as the group’s leader. Despite attending an alternative school due to her expulsion from public school, Lee was a scholarship winner who drove an Audi A4. She was also “obsessed” with reality television and reportedly masterminded the ring’s outings.
Lee was sentenced to four years in prison on October 26, 2011. Despite claims by most of her cohorts that she was the ringleader, her “prison couch” (her what?) claimed she had a learning disability and a low IQ and wasn’t able to put together such schemes. Burn.
She was released on parole (for good behavior!) in March of 2013, after serving just one year and four months in the clink.
Nick Prugo (“Mark”) as played by Israel Broussard
An outcast even at their alternative high school, Prugo eventually became friends with Lee, who introduced him to the rest of the alleged ring and their new life of crime. Prugo thought of Lee as a sister, though his concept of “sister” might be a bit skewed, as Lee is the one who (allegedly!) got him into robbery and drugs. Fun friendship!
After a tipster told the cops that Lee and Prugo were behind the Lohan robbery, the police took to Facebook (as they do?), only to discover that Prugo was the male in their surveillance tape and that he and Lee were friends. After being arrested and denying his involvement, Prugo broke down and confessed everything – including a few crimes that law enforcement wasn’t even aware of (nice play, Nick).
Prugo pleaded no contest to his crimes in April of 2013, was sentenced to one year in jail, and ultimately released within days thanks to good behavior (these criminals certainly know how to behave) and work credit. Prugo has stayed away from the press since his release.
Alexis Neiers (“Nicki”) as played by Emma Watson
Neiers went with the smart play when first questioned by the cops, saying that she was drunk when they robbed Bloom’s house (and thus had no idea what they were doing) and that she had no stolen goods at her home. Of course, Neiers popped up on surveillance video and had stolen goods at her home. Clever girl.
She pled no contest to residential burglary. On May 10, 2010, she was handed down a jail term of 180 days, plus three years of probation, and a demand to pay $600,000 worth of restitution Bloom. She served only 30 days at the Century Regional Detention Facility (including five days in the cell next to Lohan!).
She was arrested again in December of 2011 for possession of heroin. Neiers was then shipped off to a “luxury rehab facility in Malibu” for a year (a stay that was free of charge, strangely enough), where she stayed from December of 2011 until December of 2012. She is now reportedly a counselor at that same facility, and is married to a guy she met in AA. They have a baby daughter.
Neiers disputes her portrayal in Coppola’s film.
She is active on Twitter.
Tess Taylor (“Sam”) as played by Taissa Farmiga
Neiers’ unofficially adopted sister and best friend was never charged with any crimes. She did, however, get to co-star in the reality show Pretty Wild and was Playboy’s Cyber Girl of the Week in July of 2009, their Cyber Girl of the Month in November 2009, and their Cyber Girl of the Year in 2010 (what a rise to fame!).
Taylor checked herself into rehab in January of 2011, thanks to an addition to opiates. She is reportedly off drugs now.
She’s also on Twitter. (And apparently a big fan of The Vow.)
Courtney Ames (“Chloe”) as played by Claire Julien
An “old friend” of Lee’s, Ames helped introduce the ring to Roy Lopez, Jr. and Johnny Ajar (somewhat amusingly portrayed as “Ricky” in the film, by none other than Gavin Rossdale), who were tasked with selling off some of the stolen goods.
Ames was sentenced on December 14, 2012 to three years of probation and two months of community service. A number of charges against her were dismissed, thanks to possible ethics violations by the main investigator on the case. Basically, she went to jail for stealing one jacket from Paris Hilton.
Out of jail, Ames now attends Pierce College, where she is studying psychology, speech, and child development and staying way out of the spotlight.
Gabby Neiers (“Emily”) as played by Georgia Rock
The younger Neiers sister was never charged with any crimes, though Coppola’s film includes scenes of her tagging along on robberies while still a young teen.
She is now in college.
So, what do you think – does crime pay?
The Bling Ring opens in limited release this Friday, June 14th. [Wikipedia, Wikipedia]