Hollywood can breathe again as Burglar Bunch are arrested

Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom among victims of 'celebrity-obsessed' gang

Andrew Johnson
Sunday 25 October 2009 00:00 BST
(getty images)

It's like a pitch for a Hollywood film: a gang of teenage girls robs celebrities' homes, stealing millions of dollars' worth of jewellery, clothes and designer bags from names such as Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. They even have a catchy name: the Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch.

Only it's not a movie (not yet anyway), and now the gang has been busted.

For the past few months, distressed celebrities have been returning to their gated homes in Hollywood Hills to find the Burglar Bunch had struck again.

Bamboozled police finally cracked the case this week, with the arrest on Thursday of the gang's alleged mastermind, a 19-year-old called Rachel Lee.

Ms Lee is said to be obsessed with celebrity fashion. Police say that when they raided her father's garage in Las Vegas they found a stash of money, jewellery and laptops, one of which contained a photograph of a partially nude woman, thought to be Paris Hilton.

Also seized were photographs of the gang wearing jewellery and clothes belonging to the celebrities – such as a blue Rolex watch belonging to Lohan, as well as a list of celebrity addresses.

One source said that when the gang broke into the home of the British actor Orlando Bloom it wasn't his belongings they were interested in, but rather those of his girlfriend, Miranda Kerr.

Ms Lee is currently in jail in Nevada. Three other women – Diana Tamayo, 19, Courtney Ames, 18, and Alexis Neirs, 18 – were also picked up, along with two men, Roy Lopez, 27, and Nick Prugo, 18. Ms Ames and Ms Neirs have been released on £30,000 bail.

Detectives believe the gang targeted the addresses they robbed by using Hollywood star maps, and checked their filming schedules on the internet to make sure the homes were empty. At least four other American television stars are believed to be victims of the gang.

Paris Hilton, 28, went to retrieve her belongings from a police station in Los Angeles last night. She had items worth an estimated $2m (£1.2m) stolen.

A spokeswoman said: "She didn't get everything, but fortunately most of her jewellery was returned."

While it sounds like a sophisticated criminal operation, Ms Lee and Ms Tamayo only graduated from shoplifting at a cosmetics store in Los Angeles in August, for which they were fined and given probation.

In true filmic tradition, the gang's members have already started turning on each other, according to TMZ, the celebrity website that broke the story of Michael Jackson's death.

One of the suspects, Alexis Neirs, told the website: "Nick and Rachel did the burglaries together. Roy Lopez was the one who sold the stuff they had taken. I'm innocent in all of this, and feel terrible for the people who got robbed."

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