Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

High school classmates investigated in burglaries of young Hollywood celebrities

A group of Calabasas school classmates is at the center of an LAPD investigation into burglaries over the last year that targeted Audrina Patridge, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and other young Hollywood stars, according to police sources.

At least seven suspects are under investigation for the break-ins, which date to October 2008, according to detectives with the LAPD's Hollywood Division.

The group includes Rachel Lee, 19; Diana Tamayo, 19; Courtney Ames, 18; and Alexis Neiers, 18; according to police. They were arrested on suspicion of burglaries in several of the cases but have not been charged by the L.A. County district attorney's office.

All are free after posting $50,000 bail.

Others arrested include Nicholas Frank Prugo, who has been charged in connection with the Lohan and Patridge burglaries, and two older men who are suspected of acting as fences for the stolen goods, detectives said. Police identified one of those men as 27-year-old Roy Lopez, a  bartender who lives in Los Angeles County.

LAPD Det. Brett Goodkin said the women were the driving forces behind the crimes. They allegedly focused on a celebrity they saw on television or in a magazine, using the Internet to target their movements, Goodkin said, including websites that track celebrity movements. The suspects allegedly staked out their residences, sometimes more than once, the detective added.

“All of these suspects had aspirations of working in the entertainment industry but did not have the skill set or connections to do so,” Goodkin said. "None of these suspects have any connections to the victims. They've never met these people, they never worked with them."

Goodkin said he would not disclose the identities of additional celebrity victims. But other LAPD sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was on ongoing investigation, said the alleged victims represent a "pantheon" of young Hollywood stars. Besides Lohan, Patridge, Hilton and Bloom, sources say the crew targeted Rachel Bilson.

Detectives would not put an immediate price tag on the merchandise, including stolen jewelry, cash, luggage and designer clothing. But sources said the total is likely to be several million dollars.

Investigators said they are still piecing the case together but said that the girls attended Indian Hills Continuation High School in Calabasas and had a  taste for the luxury goods and accessories young celebrities wore. 

According to the police sources, the suspects laid the groundwork for the crimes by scoping out a given location. The crimes took on a dimension of a "scavenger hunt," one source said.

The break in the case came in early September following a break-in a month earlier at Lohan's Hollywood Hills home. Both Lohan and Patridge provided police with video surveillance footage of their burglaries, leading to Prugo's arrest.

"This is a no-brains caper. There's not a lot of self-awareness. They saw it, they wanted it, they took it and continued taking it," Goodkin said.

Blair Berk, an attorney who represents some of the victims, said "paparazzi shots and magazine coverage is increasingly prying into the private homes, schools and personal possessions of stars, and that is increasingly creating a very real danger in terms of mentally ill stalkers and criminals."

"There are only so many shots of a star's back gate before someone, be it a stalker or burglar, goes through it," Berk said.

--Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton in Los Angeles, Robert Faturechi in Calabasas

Video: Security camera video from Lohan's home.

More breaking news in L.A. Now:

Metro Gold Line Eastside extension to open Nov. 15

Wrong-way driver in Anaheim could face drunk-driving charges, authorities say

Cooler temperatures, high winds coming to Southern California

Huge crowds turning out for swine flu vaccine

New sightings reported of Mitrice Richardson, woman missing from Malibu sheriff's station

Doctor who joined the Navy after his son's death in Iraq returns from deployment

'Avatar' director James Cameron plans to stay and fight next Malibu brush fire

Man shot dead in unincorporated Whittier

Comments () | Archives (11)

Why don't the celebrities band together, and get a few photographers of their own for, let's say 3 weeks. Then they can stalk the producers of TMZ, Extra, all of those sleeze bag shows/magazines. Give them some of their own medicine and see how things work out?

And where are the looser parents of these little criminals?

i would be very interested to see the outcome to this story. im willing to be that mommy and daddy'$ attorny will be able to convince the courts to let them out on probation when any other average young adults would be looking at serious jail time. multiple burglaries? millions of dollars in value? the outcome is rather predictable..

That's like so not cool of them. That's totally not their stuff but they're just taking it anyway. I totally hope they go to jail like forever.

“All of these suspects had aspirations of working in the entertainment industry but did not have the skill set or connections to do so”


hmmm I'm all for shaming the guilty parties and of course prosecuting them but the article clearly states "seven suspects are under investigation" and "but have not been charged by the L.A. County district attorney's office"
Should you really be publishing their names?!?!

They are living testimony to why we need massive birth control.

victimless crime if you ask me

I went to junior high with Prugo...he has apparently changed quite a bit since then.

They should be treated just like any South Central hardened criminal burglar...Prison time and a Strike for residential burglary...That looks so bad on resumes...and they're all adults...this great...

Serious prison time is in order. This is a string of residential burglaries, perped by a conspiracy of fools, some of whom were on probation for theft.

Strangely, other LAT stories refer to the females as "teens" but the males as "men." These are all "adults" who face adult charges and VERY adult prison. I hope the LATimes report these facts consistently.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: