The reinvention of Alexis Neiers

In March 2010, Alexis Neiers left the voicemail heard ’round the world.

As she read Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair profile on “The Bling Ring” — a group of seven teenagers (including Neiers) who burglarized homes of the rich and famous, including Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom, among others — in front of cameras, a 20-year-old Neiers launched into hysterics as she sobbed into her phone, leaving a message for Sales that the internet can’t seem to forget.

“You lied!” Neiers’ mother, Andrea Arlington-Dunne, can be heard shouting in the background.

“I really don’t feel like I’m such a big part of pop culture,” Neiers — who is now Alexis Haines — recently told Page Six. “I never read the ‘Bling Ring’ book. I’ve never seen ‘The Bling Ring’ movie. I’ve always just kind of stood in my truth and since getting sober in 2010, if I go back to those dark moments in my life, then I just get sucked in and engulfed in that.”

Almost nine years later, Haines calls what made her infamous a “perfect storm” of substance abuse and getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. At 19, Haines began hanging out with acquaintances Nick Prugo and Rachel Lee — who ransacked celebrity homes between October 2008 and August 2009 — while E! was producing a reality show based around Haines, Arlington-Dunne, her foster sister Tess Taylor, and her biological sister, Gabby.

The idea for the television show came after Taylor and Haines met Dan Levy on a movie set, Arlington-Dunne, 54, told us. At the time, the girls were writing affirmations in hopes of gaining fame and fortune in exchange for using their platform to help others as they strongly believed in the laws of attraction. Arlington-Dunne said Levy was intrigued by their family dynamic and the show that he pitched to the network “was originally supposed to be called ‘Homeschooled with the Arlingtons.’”

“A&E and E! were fighting over the rights to be the one who had it on their network,” she added.

Alexis Neiers, Tess Taylor, Andrea Arlington-Dunne, and Gabrielle Neiers in 2009
Alexis Neiers, Tess Taylor, Andrea Arlington-Dunne and Gabrielle Neiers in 2009Getty Images

But E! soon learned they were not going to get the show they anticipated. Cameras started following Haines and Taylor in October 2009, with their first scenes being shot at a club in Hollywood. They were still rolling the next morning when officers from the Los Angeles Police Department executed a search warrant at the family’s home and Haines was arrested for having goods that were allegedly stolen from celebrity homes.

“What happened was on the first day of filming, the police showed up at our door and arrested Alexis,” Arlington-Dunne recalled. “Now what nobody knows is that [Alexis] and Tess actually called into the police and reported the entire ‘Bling Ring’ group of people at the time to the North Hollywood Police Department.”

Haines told us, “I had called the police on Nick, which is why when the police showed up at my house, I thought that they were just coming to talk to me.”

As for her role in the string of burglaries, Haines maintains she was “only ever at one house.”

“I’m not claiming to be some like Virgin Mary perfect person — I absolutely wasn’t. My addiction turned me into the ugliest version of myself that I could ever be. I was not a good person back then. I was really naive. I was wrapped up in my own ego and my own stuff all the time. I was selfish and greedy. I had so many character defects.”

Alexis Neiers mugshot on a posession charge in January of 2010.
Alexis Neiers’ mugshot on a possession charge in January 2010Splash News

The aftermath of the arrest and her involvement in the prosecution of the “Bling Ring” became the single-season reality show “Pretty Wild,” a nine-episode series that aired from March to May 2010 and featured the notorious “Nancy Jo, this is Alexis Neiers calling” scene.

While Haines wept in front of cameras over her portrayal in Sales’ article, behind the scenes her drug addiction ran rampant, with the aspiring reality star using heroin and oxycodone. By the end of “Pretty Wild,” Haines pleaded no contest to burglarizing Orlando Bloom’s home and was sentenced to 180 days in county jail, three years’ probation and was given a $600,000 fine.

In hindsight, Arlington-Dunne says she allowed the show to air because “I thought that because I had proof of those phone calls to the North Hollywood police station before Alexis was ever arrested, that we had enough evidence to prove her innocence.”

Haines turned herself in to authorities on June 24, 2010, but her struggles with drugs continued.

“It was my first time in jail that I realized that heroin was definitely a problem for me,” she said. “When you have a little over 30 days to sit by yourself in a cell, like 23 out of 24 hours a day, you have a lot of time to think and to get some clarity. So it became really apparent for me that heroin was definitely a big issue for me and that it was ruining my life because at that point I was already panhandling for drug money and living out of hotels and it was just really a mess.”

Alexis Neiers on June 24th, 2010
Alexis Neiers on June 24, 2010Splash News

When she was released in July, she realized she didn’t have the resources to get clean.

“I was able to stay pretty much sober at least off of the hard drugs for about two weeks,” she said. “Tess, my [foster] sister, was still using and it was only a matter of time before I was back to shooting up heroin.”

Taylor did not return messages in regard to this article.

Unable to kick her habit, Haines was back in jail on Dec. 1, 2010, after being arrested for possession of a controlled substance and perjury for a fake ID.

“The night before my arrest — it was a very oddly cold winter in Southern California and I had no heat at my apartment,” she explained. “No electricity. I was constantly going in and out of detoxing from the opiates because I had no money and panhandling, I was never able to get enough drugs to keep me from getting sick. I had a very small amount of drugs left and I went to my mom’s house to sleep because I was just so cold and miserable. And I remember looking up at myself in the bathroom when I was using part of the last little bit of dope that I had, and I just remember thinking like, ‘How did you get here?’”

She recalls waking up around 6 in the morning in a painful state of withdrawal. She had .05 grams of heroin left and told us she thought, “Well, I better save that so that way I could get well enough to find my drug dealer at 11 o’clock.”

“Thank God I waited because the police raided my mom’s house looking for me because I hadn’t shown up to probation and they arrested me with that .05 grams of heroin,” she said. “And that ended up being the very best day of my life.”

She credits her attorney at the time, Michael Nasatir, with her getting help.

“He just very simply asked me, ‘Are you ready to take responsibility for your life?’” she explained. “I was 19. I had no idea what that even meant, but I said yes. And then he told me what that entailed was basically admitting to the judge that I was a heroin addict. Well, I didn’t really want to do that because I knew that the camera crews and everyone was going to be in the courthouse and he just basically told me, ‘If you want mercy, the DA is pushing for six years in prison. If you want mercy, you need to own up and ask for help and we’ll hope that it works.’ And thankfully I did. I’m glad that I took his advice.”

Arlington-Dunne credits Nasatir with helping her understand the severity of Haines’ addiction.

“I was so stuck in this mindset that everything was happening to me, that she was doing these things and it was hurting me,” Arlington-Dunne said. “It wasn’t about, ‘Oh my gosh, how can my beautiful 17-year-old daughter be in so much pain that she’s putting a needle in her arm?’ as opposed to, ‘Oh my God, what the f–k do my neighbors think?’”

The judge later ordered Haines to rehab instead of jail, but threatened to lock her up if she violated probation again. As a result, Haines was forced to detox in jail, which she called the most “horrendous experience” of her life.

I grew up in a really abusive household where there was a lot of childhood sexual abuse and incest and just horrendous acts of violence and just chaos,” she said. “I’ve had horrible experiences, but I’ve never felt as low as I felt looking at the chaos that I created in my own life right before I got sober … I had so many things in my life, but nothing compares to that detox and to the degree of sickness that I experienced.”

While in recovery, Haines met her husband, Evan. They married on April 24, 2012, and welcomed daughters Harper in 2013 and Dakota in 2016. And while her girls are too young to understand what their mom has gone through, Haines told us she doesn’t plan to shy away from her “Pretty Wild” days should they ask.

“I plan on having a really open relationship with my children regarding all of those things because I think it’s just unrealistic for us to expect our children to be 100 percent abstinent until they are 21 years old and to never drink. But I think that by having a conversation about our histories and about how substances can be super dangerous and that they can always come to us. Evan and I are on the same page that we have a zero tolerance policy for drugs in our household and we will probably drug-test the girls should we have any inkling about them using substances.”

Evan, who has been sober for 13 years, co-founded Alo House, a recovery center in Malibu, Calif., in 2010. Haines helps Evan at the center, working with those in recovery and cooking holiday meals for those in treatment when she’s able. They also do immense charity work for the sober community — Evan even helped Taylor’s struggles as recently as six years ago.

“Tess was in and out of treatment multiple times and the last time that she was living on the street and using and we are all worried about her,” Arlington-Dunne said. “We thought that she was going to die. I was like ready to send in the Marines. And Evan said, ‘No. That’s not going to work. You can’t force her. The only thing you can do is go in there and beg for her to forgive you for ever wanting her to be different than who she is and trying to control her and convict her of being guilty of being an addict. That’s not going to change her. The only thing that’s going to work is if you go in there and show up with empathy and say, “We’re not going to tell you that you can’t have your strategies. We’re just going to let you know that we are here to love you. It doesn’t mean we’re going to give you a roof over your head … we’re just going to let you be doing what you’re doing until you’re done. We’re going to love you even while you’re doing it.”’”

Tess Taylor and Alexis Neiers in 2009
Tess Taylor and Alexis Neiers in 2009Getty Images

Haines was able to maintain a low profile until Sofia Coppola released her satirical film “The Bling Ring” in 2013 with Emma Watson portraying a character based on Haines. Still, she hasn’t spoken much to any of her former acquaintances aside from a few Twitter messages with Prugo and takes pride in closing that chapter for good.

“Nick has messaged me a couple of times on Twitter but it’s just been like, ‘Hey. Hope you’re well,’” she said. “He went back into jail and I just wrote him and I said something along the lines of like ‘I hope you get help. I hope you get sober because life is so much better if you can do it. It’s absolutely worth it.’ I know he struggled with his own addiction issues and that was pretty much it.”

She continued, “I’m glad that almost all of the items were recovered. I hope that there’s been peace and healing for everybody involved, Nick and Rachel and everybody else. I hope that they’re living a better life now and that they’ve taken the second chance at life and a second opportunity and doing something good and valuable with it.”

Emma Watson in a scene from Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" (2013)
Emma Watson in a scene from Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” (2013)A24/courtesy Everett Collection

Now, there are several “Bling Ring”-style criminals in Hollywood.

One group is more relentless than the first batch of thieves. So far, suspects have stolen $2 million in jewelry from Alanis Morissette and $1.5 million worth from A$AP Rocky, among other celebrities. Haines’ iteration of “The Bling Ring” stole over $3 million in jewelry over the course of a year.

On Jan. 2, the LAPD also arrested Benjamin Ackerman in relation to a number of celebrity thefts. Authorities recovered over 2,000 items, worth millions of dollars, taken from 13 homes in the Hollywood Hills owned by Usher, Jason DeRulo, Dorit Kemsley and Adam Lambert, among others. Ackerman allegedly posed as a high-end realtor to gain access to private showings of homes to scout them and then hired people to steal goods over the course of a year.

And while it’s unclear what’s next for this new generation of thieves, Haines is happy to leave her past in the past.

“Seven and a half years later, I was able to go into the same exact courtroom at the Criminal Courts Building, Room 100, and stand up in front of the DA and basically request that the judge clear my record … I’m very grateful that because of all of the hard work and because of the community and all that I’m no longer a twice-convicted felon.”

As a byproduct of her sobriety, Haines’ family is also on the mend.

“I’m grateful it took about two years of me being sober for [Arlington-Dunne] to start looking at her own issues and to acknowledge that she was a s—-y parent because she really thought she was like the best parent,” Haines said, noting that Andrea is now five years sober, and her dad’s drinking habits have changed as well. As a result, their relationship “has begun to heal.”

As for Arlington-Dunne, she told us she’s “so inspired by [Haines’] commitment and determination to be healthy and to do what she needs to do to stay healthy. I mean at the time that she got into recovery, I was far from healthy … I was sick in my head.”

“My own soul is healing too. It’s very traumatic having a child who’s using like that … It wasn’t until Alexis said, ‘Mom, you know you need to heal, like you’re a mess.’ And she was right. I needed to give up my strategies too. I was smoking weed and drinking red wine and trying to avoid the trauma I was feeling just like she was trying to avoid the trauma that she had experienced as a little girl having a father who was also very much somebody who suffered from substance use disorder and having been the victim of sexual abuse. I needed to wake up to my own trauma and realize that I need to heal as well.”

Arlington-Dunne has since founded Families United for Recovery to help other families struggling with a loved one’s addiction. Her foster daughter, Taylor, is also in recovery.

“Life for Tess is really good,” Arlington-Dunne said. “She loves being in Wisconsin. She loves being in a small town with her little baby girl and her partner and her biological dad is there now. She loves nature and she has a little business. She makes honey. She has a bee farm, I guess you could call it.”

Tess Taylor posing with her Wild River Honey Co products
Tess Taylor posing with her Wild River Honey Co. productsWild River Honey Co Facebook

And as for Gabby?

“Gabby is amazing,” Arlington-Dunne told us. “She’s such an old soul and I think she was the most mature of all four of us. I really think she was the most enlightened one through the entire experience and continues to be today.”

With her criminal record expunged and sobriety prioritized, Haines is ready to face the future.

“I would really like to advocate for criminal justice reform, to end the war on drugs, to get people universal health care, to get people access to treatment and to heal this epidemic that we’re facing in our country. I feel like that is really my calling.”

“I want to start building a platform. I don’t know if I’m gonna do a podcast or what I’m going to do where I can reach people, especially young people to show them that living a life in sobriety is f—–g amazing. It’s the life beyond my wildest dreams growing up in the chaos that I came from.”


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