Rachel Lee was 19 years old and high on Xanax when she drove four hours from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to rob Lindsay Lohan’s house.
“My friends called me and they said, ‘Let’s go steal.’ I got my things and I remember taking Xanax and I left. It really sounds psychotic, but I still felt that FOMO,” she recalls in the Max documentary “The Ringleader: The Case of the Bling Ring,” airing and streaming Sunday.
It’s the first time Lee, now 33, has ever publicly spoken about being the ringleader of the notorious Bling Ring: a band of LA teens who went on a Hollywood crime spree between October 2008 and August 2009, robbing celebrities including Lohan, Paris Hilton, Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green, and Orlando Bloom of more than $3 million in luxury goods — Louis Vuitton luggage, Rolexes — as well as handguns.
In the documentary, Lee recalls her last adrenaline-filled heist, in which the group made off with $130,000 worth of clothing, jewelry, and personal items from Lohan’s Hollywood Hills home.
Lee knew she was on the LAPD’s radar after TMZ had dropped surveillance footage of the teens burglarizing “The Hills” star Audrina Partridge’s home. But not even the danger of being caught could quell her addiction to the thrill of getting away with it.
“I remember pulling up [to Lohan’s house] … the stakes were so high because there was already surveillance of us,” she says. “At this point, we were, like, just on the actual edge — I think there was a part of me that was like ‘I’m going to finish strong.’”
But not everyone could take the pressure.
One of her friends, then-18-year-old Alexis Neiers, ratted out Lee and Nick Prugo, 18, to police in an anonymous phone call. The dominos quickly begin to fall, as Prugo, Diana Tamayo, 19, and Courtney Ames, 18, were all arrested for connections to the burglaries.
In the documentary, Lee recalls talking to Prugo, her best friend, after the Lohan robbery.
“I said to him, ‘This is really bad, what’s happening to us. I don’t know what’s going to happen to us’ — I remember I put my hand on his shoulders — ‘but I love you so much. ‘I’ll never betray you,’” she says.
A day later, Lee says, she got a phone call from Prugo asking for her father’s address in Las Vegas, where she was staying.
“Me and Nick were still best friends. I remember when I answered the phone it wasn’t our usual vibe,” Lee remembers. Moments later, she heard pounding on her father’s front door.
“Nick betrayed me. The door swung open as if it was a bomb squad,” Lee says.
According to the book “The Bling Ring” by Nancy Jo Sales, Lee believes she had gotten rid of any evidence that could tie her to the crimes. When police discovered Lohan’s coat and topless photos of Hilton, taken from the starlet’s safe, Lee is said to have melted down in hysterics — gagging as if she were going to vomit.
“They were like, ‘We got her – we got the evidence we needed,’” Lee says in the film. “The detective said to me, ‘This is a game of musical chairs and we’ve already talked to all your friends and you’re the only one without a chair.’”
Prugo — who admitted to police that the group had Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, and Hilary Duff, among other celebs, in their sights — copped a plea deal and received two years in prison. Tamayo and Ames were given probation after admitting to robbing Lohan and Hilton. (Two others also served time for connections to the crimes.)
In a twist of fate, Neiers pleaded no contest to residential burglary, was sentenced to 180 days in prison, and ended up on the same cell block as Lohan, who had violated her probation for a necklace theft conviction.
Lee accepted a plea deal of four years in a California state prison for burgling Patridge’s home and served 16 months.
Over the years, some of the teens gave interviews as their story took on mythic status — there was a “Bling Ring” movie starring Emma Watson and directed by Sofia Coppola, as well as a Lifetime version with a pre-“Elvis” Austin Butler, and a Netflix docu-series last year that re-ignited interest in the story
But Lee kept quiet.
“Rachel was so scared and she was the person that got a state prison sentence of four years. Her mom said not to speak, and she listened,” Erin Lee Carr, who directed “The Ringleader,” told The Post.
“She thought that by just talking about it, it would continue to expose her, and her life would be more challenging as a result. She finally felt like she was in a safe enough place to do it.”
The opening scene of the documentary shows Lee working at a hair salon, with crystals lining her workstation, having earned her cosmetology license in 2018. Lee got sober in prison and remains clean, she told the Los Angeles Times. Today, she lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks; however, details of her personal life are scarce in the film.
She recalls her struggle to find work as a convicted felon, having come home from prison to a mattress on the floor, a phone, and a meager box of belongings.
It was a long fall from her privileged upbringing in Calabasas, the wealthy LA suburb that is home to various Kardashians and Jenners, as well as Will Smith and Justin Bieber.
Her mother was an attorney, and her father was an accountant. Lee drove an Audi A4 in high school and dressed in designer clothes — but gripes in the film about living in the “smallest house” in the ritzy zip code.
She also says she felt “so ashamed” of being a Korean-American in her predominantly white neighborhood, which led her to mask the insecurity with material luxuries.
“I wanted my mom to always buy me something designer. I think it made me feel rich. It made me feel ‘I’m part of this material world,’” she says.
Lee says she started doing drugs at age 14, adding that Xanax became “a catalyst for a lot of things. It took away my emotion and because I didn’t care I could act the way that I always wanted to.”
The first thing she ever stole was a pair of Uggs. She was sent to an alternative high school for troubled teens, Indian Hills, where she met Prugo.
“It made no sense why a teenager would put herself at that much risk unless there was extreme mental health issues or dependency on drugs,” Carr, who also directed “Britney Vs Spears,” told The Post.
“She wanted to be bad. She felt like an outsider and she used drugs to numb herself — was it the whole reason? Is it the missing key? No, it’s not. It’s some added context for people when they think, ‘Why would somebody feel comfortable going into somebody’s house at night?’”
Lee compares her crimes to a drug, describing the rush it gave her as “adrenaline and then, when the crime was over I felt so high and clear-headed. I really liked that feeling a lot.”
The high also numbed her to the consequences.
“When you rob you know you could go to prison, but she [Lee] maintained to me that it didn’t really factor in. She was like, ‘I didn’t really care about life so if I get caught, whatever, I’m going to die.’ It was so mind-boggling for me,” Carr told The Post.
But the director believes prison has helped Lee to reconcile her attachment to materialism and find herself.
“She felt like a different version of her. She credits prison for helping her. She found herself in being incarcerated and luckily she was safe in doing so,” Carr said.
“This was somebody who wanted everything and nothing was ever good enough and always wanted more … and 1696140732 she starts crying because she’s like, ‘I have everything I need.’”
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