A detective who brought down the so-called "bling ring" of teenage burglars who stole money, jewellery and designer clothes from Hollywood celebrities has been accused of compromising their imminent prosecution by agreeing to play himself in a movie about the case.
Brett Goodkin, a veteran Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer, was hired to act as a paid "technical adviser" on Sofia Coppola's biopic The Bling Ring, currently in the middle of production, and also landed a cameo role for himself on the project. In one recently completed scene, Mr Goodkin strode up to Emma Watson, the Harry Potter actress playing one of the alleged group of burglars, and slapped a pair of handcuffs on her wrist.
News of his involvement in the film, broken by yesterday's Los Angeles Times, could impede the coming trial of Courtney Ames, Diana Tamayo and Roy Lopez, who stand accused of the notorious string of burglaries.
Mr Goodkin failed to inform prosecutors about his commercial relationship with the film-makers. "We did not know, and now that we do, we have to evaluate what impact this may have," a prosecution spokesman said yesterday.
He is also being probed for failing to gain proper authorisation from his LAPD superiors for taking the job, which paid $5-$6,000 (£3,100-£3,721). Although policemen often consult on movies, it is highly irregular for them to do so when the case has not yet gone to trial, legal experts said.
Mr Goodkin claimed he was now "distancing" himself from Coppola's film, which co-stars Kirsten Dunst and Gavin Rossdale. "I don't want it to look untoward," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I wanted to see what Sofia was going to do with the story... I'm certain I'll never work on a movie again."
But commentators said his decision to help with the movie could derail the entire prosecution. "Clearly, it presents a conflict of interest if someone's investigation becomes oriented toward creating a story or entertainment," Thomas Mesereau, a high-profile defence attorney, told the newspaper. "It's going to taint the investigation."
Ms Ames, Ms Tamayo, and Mr Lopez are accused of taking part in a string of audacious raids after tracking such stars as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan via their Twitter accounts, and then casing their homes online.
In at least seven burglaries, they allegedly took artwork, cash, jewellery, and clothes worth $3.24m [£2.2m], according to prosecutors. They also enjoyed raucous parties at the homes they invaded, emptying the stars' drinks cabinets and, on one occasion, purloining their stash of cocaine.
Three of the six teenagers who were arrested by Mr Goodkin and his colleagues have already accepted plea deals that saw them forced to serve custodial sentences. Ms Ames, Ms Tamayo and Mr Lopez have pleaded not guilty, however. "For [Mr Goodkin] to be paid to play himself in a film where he is a critical witness against my client is highly inappropriate, and I'll certainly make sure the jury knows about it," one of their attorneys said yesterday.
Burgled: Star victims of the 'bling ring'
Returning to her home to find black fingerprints on her wall, the actress discovered her house in disarray with a fur coat, two paintings and jewellery among the missing items.
The Lord of the Rings star lost watches worth almost $500,000, snatched from his dressing table, along with artworks when his Hollywood home was targeted.
The reality TV star didn't realise she had been burgled until two months after the original raid, when the gang returned and stole $1.2m of jewellery.