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(Independent) Teenage kicks: How the ‘bling ring’ gang used Twitter to burgle Hollywood homes

LENA CORNER SATURDAY 02 JUNE 2012

When six American youths were caught breaking into the homes of Hollywood celebrities – using Twitter and Google Earth to assist them – the ‘bling ring’ gang achieved instant notoriety. As the last sentences are handed down, and a movie of their crime begins shooting, Lena Corner gets the inside story on this very post-modern scandal.

“Goodbye world,” read 21-year-old Nick Prugo’s final tweet on 15 April this year. Shortly afterwards, his Twitter timeline – usually full of links to his favourite tracks and clichéd nuggets of positive thinking – went dead. The son of a successful Hollywood studio executive and not long out of high school, Prugo had signed off and disappeared into the notorious LA City Jail. There he remains, accused of seven counts of residential burglary – a series of crimes which could see him facing more than 14 years behind bars.

But these were no ordinary robberies. Prugo is charged with breaking into the homes of a series of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom. Last month he took the stand offering a deal whereby in return for testifying against his alleged partners in crime – Courtney Ames, Roy Lopez and Diana Tamayo – all but two of the charges would be dropped. If grassing on his former friends proves successful, Prugo could be looking at a sentence of just two years. He is due back in court next month for the verdict.

Prugo’s hearing is the latest instalment in a saga that has dominated America’s gossip pages since he was first arrested back in September 2009. Prugo is a member of the ‘bling ring’ – a group of affluent, club-hopping, (mostly) teenage Valley kids who, motivated by a warped obsession with celebrity, proved to be one of the most precocious burglary gangs in Hollywood history. They used Twitter to track when their targets were out, Google Earth to work their way into their mansions, and came away with a haul worth more than $3m. It’s a story so perfectly of the moment it’s as if it were lifted straight from the pages of a movie script.

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