Celebrities have been targets of a rash of burglaries. The new bling ring, explained.

      Comments Off on Celebrities have been targets of a rash of burglaries. The new bling ring, explained.
Rihanna is one of several celebrities targeted by a home burglary ring in Los Angeles.

Rihanna, Christina Milian, Yasiel Puig, and Robert Woods have been the victims of a series of robberies.

In an entertainment era filled with reboots, it’s darkly fitting that Hollywood would get a new version of the bling ring — the group of teens who began burglarizing the homes of celebrities like Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, and Paris Hilton in 2008. The crime ring inspired a Lifetime movie and a theatrical film release, and has potentially now influenced a new quartet of copycats to steal from the rich and famous.

The Los Angeles Police Department announced Wednesday that an adult and three teens were under arrest in connection with robberies of the homes of Rihanna, Christina Milian, Yasiel Puig of the LA Dodgers, and Robert Woods of the LA Rams. The suspects were reportedly found with $50,000 in cash as well as assorted jewelry, watches, and handbags.

“During recent months, the Los Angeles Police Department has become aware of residential burglaries targeting actors, producers, musicians, and professional athletes living in the Los Angeles area,” said Lillian L. Carranza, captain of LAPD’s commercial crimes division, during a press conference.

Police didn’t realize at first that the crimes were related, but eventually made a connection between the recent burglaries. Rihanna’s home was just burglarized last week, and according to the authorities, the suspects planned to hit the homes of LeBron James, Viola Davis, and Matt Damon next.

Detectives continue to work the case,” Carranza said on Twitter. “Much work remains to be done!”

As with the original bling ring, there may be a psychological component to the burglaries allegedly committed by Jshawne Daniels, Tyress Williams, Damaji Hall, and Ashle Hall. The famous people targeted don’t appear to be random, but ones teens like and respect, or at least follow avidly. Breaking into the homes of celebrities may be a way for these burglars to, just briefly, live through them.

A decade has passed since the first bling ring began its crime spree, and Kim Kardashian was robbed in Paris two years ago. That entertainers continue to be theft victims shows that the loss of privacy that accompanies fame even extends to celebrities’ homes.

Celebrities tend to get victim-blamed when thieves target them

October 3 marked two years since Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint at a Paris hotel. Masked men tied up the reality star, stealing millions in jewelry.

Although Kardashian received an outpouring of support after the heist, she was also the target of victim blaming. Flashing pricey bling on social media, stepping out in outfits that cost tens of thousands of dollars, and oversharing generally on her reality TV show meant, to some, that she invited the attack.

Even Kardashian blamed herself for the robbery, telling Ellen DeGeneres in April 2017: “I know that was meant to happen to me. I really feel like things happen in your life to teach you things. … I was being flashy, and I was definitely materialistic before.”

Kim Kardashian rebranded her image after she was robbed at gunpoint in Paris in 2016.Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Kim Kardashian the day before she was robbed in Paris in 2016.

Following the robbery, Kardashian’s team rebranded her as a contrite woman who’d learned her lesson. For a spell, she went dark on social media, and sources told People magazine how the experience had also made her a better mother. That meant Kardashian wore less makeup, simple jewelry, and baggy T-shirts and sweatpants instead of latex dresses.

After the original bling ring was arrested for burglarizing the homes of young Hollywood, including former Kardashian BFF Paris Hilton, blame was also directed at the victims. It wasn’t that these celebrities uploaded images of million dollar jewels on social media. Rather, they shared their comings and goings on Twitter, making it easy for the burglars to know when they wouldn’t be home. Many didn’t have alarm systems, and those who did often neglected to activate them. Hilton, incredibly, left a spare key to her mansion under a doormat.

“People like Paris Hilton made themselves so vulnerable in so many ways,” Robert Siciliano, a personal and home security expert told Vulture in 2013. “It was like the poster-child incident, if you will, for what not to do.”

This time around, it’s unclear exactly how this set of robbers broke into the homes of their celebrity targets. But one of the ring’s would-be targets, LeBron James, has already taken steps to make his LA home more secure. The NBA star now reportedly has a team of roughly 10 armed guards, including off-duty cops, patrolling the grounds of his estate. The NBA is also helping to keep James safe, and the NFL is working to protect Rams star Robert Woods.

The extra security is surely needed since it’s so easy for the public to know when pro-athletes like Woods, James, or Puig are away playing games. Puig’s home was robbed during the World Series last year. And a singer-entrepreneur like Rihanna doesn’t have much more privacy. She attends product launches, music industry events, and concerts known to everyone. And it’s difficult for celebrities to keep their addresses secret.

“When you roll into Hollywood, you can get a map to the stars on any street corner for five bucks that will show you where everybody lives,” Siciliano told Vulture. “So in that scenario, it’s very difficult for those people to stay private unless they purposefully do just that. And that is often expensive.”

Paris Hilton played herself in Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film “The Bling Ring,” based on a real-life celebrity burglary ring.Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images
Paris Hilton at the premiere of the 2013 movie “The Bling Ring,” based on a real-life celebrity burglary ring.

Admiration for celebrities likely motivated the original bling ring and their successors

Members of the original bling ring and this new crop of burglars may have turned to crime for a combination of reasons — a love of fashion, the need for cash, or a desire to experience the Hollywood lifestyle among them. The leader of the first bling ring, Rachel Lee, began stealing primarily “based on her desire to own the designer wardrobes of the Hollywood celebrities she admired,” according to the LAPD. The members of the ring especially admired Megan Fox’s wardrobe, and for Lee, in particular, Lindsay Lohan was the “ultimate fashion icon.”

After Lee’s arrest, she longed to hear Lohan’s thoughts on the crimes. She reportedly asked an LAPD detective working the case, “What did Lindsay say?”

The exact motivations of each bling ring member aren’t entirely known. While the group has largely been portrayed in the press and in the 2013 Bling Ring film as disaffected white youth from the wealthy LA suburb of Calabasas, the truth is more complicated.

The bling ring was, in fact, a racially diverse group of young people. Lee is Korean American and another member, Diana Tamayo, was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico at the time of her arrest. But the white members of the bling ring, like Nick Prugo and Alexis Neiers, garnered most of the media attention.

Each alleged member of the new ring is African American, however. And three of them are young men between the ages of 18 and 19; the lone woman in the group is the mom of one suspect. That most of the suspects are men might explain why they allegedly hit Hollywood athletes, not once a target of the previous ring. The marks also stand out because all have been black, while none of the victims of the original bling ring were. African-American burglars would presumably look less conspicuous stepping onto the estates of black celebrities. (How Matt Damon fits into all of this is anyone’s guess.)

Like their predecessors, the suspects in the new bling ring appear to have wanted in on Hollywood glamour as well. Carranza, LAPD’s commercial crimes division captain, said they drove to the homes of their targets in designer clothes and a luxury car. Immediately before their break-ins, they would change into hoodies to conceal their identities. But they may not have acted alone — the LAPD doesn’t necessarily believe the foursome are the only burglars targeting celebrities.

This suspicion lends credence to the theory security expert Robert Siciliano made five years ago. Asked about the chance of another bling ring forming, he said that criminals had never stopped pursuing the rich and the famous. Since celebrities don’t enjoy looking like easy marks, however, they tend to keep mum about the issue.

“I would say it is happening now; it just might not be getting the same attention or publicity,” Siciliano said. “Nobody wants to admit that they were burgled or robbed or accosted. … More than anything, it’s embarrassing. … My guess is that if in fact this is happening right now, which I’m sure it is, people are being quiet about it because they don’t want to be a poster child for what not to do.”

Want more stories from The Goods by Vox? Sign up for our newsletter here.