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The ‘Mastermind’ behind the Bling Ring Finally Speaks Out

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It’s been 15 years since the infamous Bling Ring began their robbery spree, stealing millions of dollars in cash and belongings from a slew of high-profile celebrities.

And while a handful of the perpetrators, namely Nick Prugo and Alexis Neiers, have spoken out numerous times about the group’s crimes and their involvement, there’s one culprit who has gone relatively under the radar in the years since. That is, until now.

After the then-teenagers made headlines following their 2010 arrests, Rachel Lee was quickly dubbed the mastermind of the group. “That word mastermind just kept coming up … and people were calling me the ringleader,” Lee, now 32, recalled in the new Binge documentary, The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring – where she opened up about the case in detail for the first time. 

However, she insisted it was her fellow perpetrators that “created that narrative”. “I was a follower that didn’t want to look like a follower,” Lee explained. “I wanted to look like a leader but my true self, my true nature, I’m more of a follower.” 

The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring
“I was able to live in their world” (Credit: Binge) (Credit: Binge)

Although she spent her early teenage years rebelling and dabbling in drugs, Lee’s descent into crime really began when she was expelled from Calabasas High in Los Angeles for stealing a fellow student’s ugg boots and ended up at Indian Hills Continuation High School.

It was there that she met Prugo, who would go on to become her accomplice in the robbery spree that left Hollywood’s rich and famous on edge between 2008 and 2009. 

“We started to call ourselves Bonnie and Clyde,” Lee shared in the documentary, revealing that while their spree started with pilfering from unlocked cars in wealthy LA neighbourhoods, they “kept wanting to go to the next level”. 

It was Prugo, Lee explained, that found a website that had aerial pictures and addresses of celebrity homes – sparking the idea to attempt a break-in. “To me it was just a sure shot,” she said. “If you go into a celebrity home, most likely you’re going to steal a lot cooler things.” 

The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring
The story became the focus of two movies, one starring Emma Watson. “I don’t resonate with that Hollywood version at all but I could see how it was quite entertaining for the world to see it that way,” Lee shared. “It was more of a storm for me.” (Credit: A24) (Credit: A24)

The pair first hit up Paris Hilton’s pad where they found a key under the front doormat. And after getting away with it, they continued going back to steal more things before teaming up with other friends – Neiers, Courtney Ames and Diana Tamayo – to target Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge and Rachel Bilson. 

“Going into a celebrity home and trying on their stuff, I was able to live in their world,” Lee divulged. “When I took their stuff it was an instant feeling of like, ‘Ooh, I’m powerful.’” 

Despite being caught on security cameras, the group continued their spree. However, after footage of them robbing Lindsay Lohan’s house in 2009 was splashed on TMZ, Prugo handed himself in and began talking.

The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring
“I think I honestly was a sociopath,” Lee said of her past self. “I honestly didn’t care about anybody or anything.” (Credit: Binge) (Credit: Binge)

Lee said she was “sure that he would protect me”. However, when her father’s Las Vegas home was raided, she knew he had told. 

“I feel like if anyone was the ringleader it was me and him [together], because we did it just as much [as each other],” she explained. “It’s really stressful thinking about the past because it’s so far from where I am today. It’s quite disturbing actually.”

Finally realising the consequences of her actions, Lee took a plea deal and was given a four-year prison sentence, of which she served just 16 months. Prugo was given even less, after the lead detective in the case was investigated for secretly being paid to consult on director Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film about the case before the other defendants had been sentenced. 

“They got the better end of the stick,” Lee admitted. Now living and working as a hairdresser in California, Lee said she’s certainly learned her lesson – particularly who to surround herself with. 

Stream The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring now on BINGE with a 7-day free trial. Subscribe here.

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