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October 30, 2009

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US teens rob celebrities' homes

FOR a group of Los Angeles teens, entertainment news offered more than a glimpse into the lives of stars. It helped them break into celebrities' homes.

The teens tracked the movements of stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton on the Internet and broke into their homes while they were away, making off with millions of dollars in stolen possessions in a spree that lasted almost a year.

"They thought it was fun, kind of an adrenaline rush," Los Angeles police officer Brett Goodkin said. "They would go in and steal the celebrity's clothes and possessions, things they could never afford on their own."

Police last week arrested four young women and two men on suspicion of burglarizing 10 homes in the Hollywood Hills. In addition to Lohan and Hilton, other victims included "The Hills" star Audrina Patridge, Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green, Ashley Tisdale and Rachel Bilson.

Police said the teens scoured celebrity blogs and Websites, looking for valuables, and then used the Internet to find where the stars lived.

Through the doggy door

After watching a home, they would break into poorly protected properties through doors, windows and, in one case, a doggy door. The burglaries lasted from October 2008 until September.

Items stolen "run the gamut of high-end designer clothing," Goodkin said. "You could pick a designer, and they would be among what was taken."

Police displayed an evidence photograph on Wednesday depicting about US$2 million in stolen jewelry that was recovered and returned to Hilton.

The suspects include 18-year-olds Rachel Lee, Courtney Ames and Alexis Neiers, and Diana Tamayo, 19.

Additionally, 18-year-old Nicholas Prugo was arrested last month on suspicion of breaking into the homes of Lohan and Patridge. A sixth suspect, 27-year-old Ray Lopez Jr, was also arrested.

Police also sought Jonathan Ajar, 27, for offenses including receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors have filed felony residential burglary charges against Neiers, Ames, Tamayo and Lopez Jr. They declined to file charges against Lee, pending further investigation, and additional charges will be filed against Prugo, who had already been charged with burglaries at Lohan and Patridge's homes.


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