Emma Watson gives an impressive performance as Nicki, one member of the Hollywood thieving ring depicted in Sofia Coppola’s latest film, The Bling Ring. But it makes us wonder: What ever happened to Alexis Neiers, the real-life criminal who inspired Watson’s role? And did Paris Hilton ever get her jewels back, by the way? And how many of those kids charged with robbing celebrities actually saw the inside of a prison cell? If you’re as curious as we are to know what’s up with the real-life Bling Ring, here you go.
According to pieced-together testimony, Lee (renamed Rebecca in the film and played by Katie Chang) was the mastermind behind the Bling Ring. Her obsession with celebrity — or at least the Lindsay Lohan, reality-TV kind — led her to want to experience first-hand the big-money lifestyle she read about in the pages of US Weekly. Named “Best Dressed” in her 2007 yearbook and driving a white Audi A4 to school, Lee had already been fined and put on probation for shoplifting at a Sephora with fellow Bling Ring member Diana Tamayo. After taking her fair share of jewels and jeans from various celebrities’ homes, she headed to Vegas to live with her father. Both in Coppola’s film and in real life, the authorities eventually caught up with her.
Did she serve time? Yes! After pleading no contest and being sentenced to four years (the harshest punishment among the crew), she served one year and four months.
The Bling Ring’s most public figure, Alexis Neiers was busy shooting a reality show that would become E!’s Pretty Wild when police stormed her Westlake Village house in search of stolen property. Emma Watson’s impression of Neiers, now 21, is spot-on, as Neiers has graciously left a series of blog posts, YouTube vlogs, and VICE interviews in her wake. Since those days spent tagging along on sorties to rob the houses of various celebrities, Alexis has since given birth to a baby girl with her husband, Evan (whom she met while attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings). And for the record, regarding her famously contested courtroom outfit: “I was certainly not wearing Louboutins. Did I own Louboutins? Yes. Did I walk into court wearing Louboutins? Never. Was I really wearing a little tweed skirt and four-inch BeBe kitten heels? Yes, I was.”
Did she serve time? Not really. Neiers pleaded no contest to felony burglary charges and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, of which she served only 30. She also got three years’ probation and had to pay a fine of $600,000 (to Orlando Bloom!).
Fellow Bling Ring crew member Jonathan Ajar’s ex-girlfriend, Ames had the famously awesome idea to wear a necklace that belonged to Lindsay Lohan to court. These days? “According to her lawyer, Robert Schwartz, she is currently a student at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, where she is taking classes in psychology, speech, and child development.”
Did she serve time? No. After she pleaded no contest to having a jacket stolen from Paris Hilton, Ames was sentenced to three years’ probation and 60 days of community service.
“He confessed to crimes we didn’t even know he committed,” Officer Brett Goodkin, the lead investigator in the Bling Ring case, said to Nancy Jo Sales in her Vanity Fair piece about the crimes. Prugo reportedly not only talked to the police “for hours,” but he even went on an extensive talk-show circuit afterward. His initial desire to brag is part of what got him caught in the first place: Facebook photos revealing the crew showing off their stolen wares is partially what led police their way in the first place. Since then, according to the Daily Beast, Prugo is more wary about his Facebook activity. He declined to chat with them about his recent whereabouts.
Did he serve time? Yes. After pleading no contest to two counts of first-degree residential burglary, he was the last of the crew to be tried in court and was sentenced to two years in jail. He served one year and was just released this past April.
Unlike her Audi-driving friend Rachel Lee, Tamayo lived with her family near Calabasas in one of its few apartment buildings. She is also an undocumented immigrant, according to Vanity Fair and Colorlines, causing police officers to initially threaten her with deportation if she didn’t cooperate. Before joining Lee in robbing houses, she had previously gotten in trouble for shoplifting at a Sephora. In the film, the teens make the younger Neiers sister crawl through a certain celebrity’s doggie door, but the pint-size Tamayo did that during the real burglaries.
Did she serve time? No. After pleading no contest for burglary, Tamayo served 60 days of community service and is still finishing up her three years of probation.
Jonathan Ajar, a.k.a. “Jonnie Dangerous”
Charged separately from the rest of the Ring, Ajar’s main gig was selling the stolen property that the teens would amass from their robberies. When he was busted in 2009, he already had an extensive criminal record that included both drugs and guns and served jail time. Before that he had been a popular party promoter and drug dealer — hanging out at all of Hollywood’s hot spots, including Green Door, where he first met future girlfriend and Bling Ring member Courtney Ames. He helped get Ames and her friends into the club that first night, and he would go on to help fence stolen goods. Since serving time related to both Bling Ring activities and the sale of illegal drugs, Ajar is doing quite well, at least according to his Instagram. Check out those pictures of shiny Rolexes, bowls of weed, and bottles of liquor!
Did he serve time? Yes. And it wasn’t his first time. He pleaded no contest for a slew of things, including selling cocaine, illegally possessing a firearm, and receiving the Bling Ring’s stolen property. He did three years in jail and has been out since March 2011.
Ray Lopez Jr.
Courtney Ames didn’t just recruit Jonathan Ajar; she also pulled in bouncer Ray Lopez Jr., who grabbed most of the valuable valuables, including jewels owned by Paris Hilton valued at $3 million. Apparently, he couldn’t find a buyer for them, so they weren’t worth much to him and his fellow thieves.
Did he serve time? No. After pleading no contest to receiving stolen property, Lopez received three years’ probation.
Los Angeles Police Department officer Brett Goodkin
Perhaps the most interesting postscript of the the Bling Ring case revolves around policeman Brett Goodkin, who appears as himself in The Bling Ring. It seems that Goodkin might lose his job owing to the suspicion that he may have been advising on the film while still working the case — a no-no, even in Hollywood. After receiving a reported $12,500 for consulting on and acting in The Bling Ring (he’s the officer who appears at Nicki’s door and orders her to put her hands behind her back), Goodkin is being accused of “not properly informing the LAPD or the L.A. County district attorney of his Hollywood turn.” Not only that, he also is facing accusations that he made “inappropriate contact” with one of the witnesses on the case. At the hearing of Courtney Ames, the judge referred to the drama surrounding Goodkin by saying, “You should all write a thank-you letter to Goodkin because his judgment is as poor as it gets. You can have a field day with his credibility during trial … It’s a shame what he did. It’s harmful to the People’s case.”
Did he serve time? Not yet. He first has to deal with the LAPD’s Board of Rights, and then possibly face counts against his dealings with the Bling Ring witness.