Published November 07, 2009
LAS VEGAS -- Investigators cracked a youthful burglary ring that preyed on Hollywood's rich and famous, often brazenly walking into their unlocked homes to make off with cash, jewels and family heirlooms, authorities said.
A suspect turned informant told police that a 19-year-old woman was the "driving force" in the thefts, motivated by a desire to own the designer clothes and jewelry of such celebrities as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
According to a Las Vegas police search warrant obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, Nicholas Prugo told Los Angeles police detectives that Rachel Jungeon Lee spearheaded the break-ins.
Prugo told police Lee, 19, would suggest a target, then Prugo would trawl the Internet for information about where they lived and when they would be away from home. Las Vegas police were involved because Lee lives there.
Officials said Lee was booked on a charge of possession of stolen property and released after posting $3,000 bail. Prosecutors in Los Angeles asked police to investigate her further. She could not immediately be reached Friday for comment.
Police say the Lee and Prugo were part of a group of at least six that stole from October 2008 until September.
After watching a house, they would break into poorly protected properties, often by simply walking through unlocked doors.
Prugo said they removed cash, narcotics and thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, including family heirlooms.
Acting on a tip, police arrested 18-year-old Prugo on Sept. 17. He initially refused to talk to police, but on Oct. 6, he and his attorney met with detectives and Prugo "provided a full confession, and implicated several other suspects," court documents state.
"Prugo admitted to committing all of the burglaries and that Rachel Lee was with him during the residential burglaries of the homes of Audrina Patridge, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and the Hilton family," the search warrant states. "Prugo stated that it was Lee who would suggest a target and that he would surf the Internet to learn where the celebrity lived as well as the target's travel itinerary."
Prugo said Lee wanted to "own the designer wardrobes of the Hollywood celebrities she admired."
Lee, Prugo and at least four others have been arrested in the case. The four others, most between the ages of 18 and 20, have been charged with felony burglary.
The search warrant states Prugo told police he and Lee broke into Hilton's house several times. At the Lohan house, the burglary crew gained entrance by prying open a window with a screwdriver, then swiped luggage, clothing and jewelry including a Rolex wristwatch with a blue face, Prugo told police.
He said expensive watches were also a target at Bloom's house, and several were stolen along with artwork and clothing.
A search of the Las Vegas home Lee shared with her father turned up a piece of paper with the names of her accomplices. Las Vegas Detective Ethan Grimes confirmed those people were the other subjects identified in the crime ring.
Police also found three photos of Paris Hilton, designer jeans, three computers, a Korean passport, 204 $100 bills and less than one ounce of marijuana when they arrested Lee at the home in northwest Las Vegas on Oct. 22, according to the warrants.