Who are the California Girls? Inside the women’s gang that stole $8 million in cosmetics and clothing

By Abby Amoakuh

Published Mar 14, 2024 at 01:46 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

53-year-old mother of three Michelle Mack has become everyone’s favourite new millionaire queenpin following a raid on her sprawling mansion in San Diego, California on 6 December 2023. The criminal mastermind stands accused of heading up a large-scale theft ring of 12 women known as the “California Girls.” According to authorities, Mack’s operation has stolen up to $8 million in cosmetic goods and designer clothing over the past few years.

As stated by the New York Post, Mack recruited up to 12 young women to steal from stores across the country and mail the loot back to her $3 million mansion in California.

@dailymail

Glamorous millionaire 'queenpin', 53, is accused of running crime ring of 12 women called 'California Girls' who stole $8M in cosmetics and designer clothes, storing them in 4,500 sq ft mansion and selling them on Amazon. #fyp #crimetok #california #truecrime

♬ original sound - Daily Mail

The scheme started to unravel when two alleged gang members were arrested in an Ulta store on the East Coast. Upon the arrest, one of them told officials that she was working for a certain woman in California who provided her with a list of stores to target. The list would also contain the prices she would pay for hot goods.

From there, the elaborate crime began to surface. Mack would supply her ‘workers’ with the list and even pay their airfares to more than a dozen states nationwide to execute the tasks. The queenpin also provided funds for hotel rooms and car rental costs for up to a dozen operatives, who would then post their loot to her home. The last stage of the devious plot was to resell the items through a front company on Amazon Marketplace at a large discount.

A ‘mini-store’ of goods worth around $350,000 was found during the early morning December raid on Mack’s $3 million and 4,500 square feet mansion, according to the authorities.

Prosecutors have charged Mack, her husband Kenneth, and seven of their known associates with 136 felony counts of grand theft.

One alleged member of the California Girls, Alina Franco, reportedly had $67,000 worth of stolen beauty products at her home in Colton, San Bernardino. Franco’s home was raided on the same day and appeared in court on 27 February denying multiple felony counts.

Investigators said that they spent more than two years trying to “break the gang,” which was tasked with clearing entire shelves of goods and concealing them in Louis Vuitton bags.

Many netizens immediately started to draw references to the 2013 movie The Bling Ring. It tells the real-life story of a group of high-school students, who broke into the homes of major celebrities, such as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr, and Lindsay Lohan. The goal was to rob them of millions of dollars in clothes, shoes and jewellery and keep the goods for their own personal enjoyment. Their activities resulted in the theft of about $3 million in cash and belongings and shed light on the brutal envy the public feels about the glamorous and exclusive lifestyle of the rich and famous.

“She’s queen girl boss,” one TikTok user said of Mack, the mastermind behind the ‘California Girls’ operations. “And the next Hollywood movie is…” another user joked. Others pointed out similarities to TV shows such as Good Girls and Inventing Anna. The Daily Mail also described Mack’s lifestyle as “glamourous” and extensively wrote about her mansion which reportedly had a chapel and a vineyard.

Another TikToker added: “Like that one girl on Oceans 8,” while a further netizen simply stated “Queen.”

Overall, the comment section was rich with users who drew cinematic parallels and celebrated, as well as glamourised, Mack’s crimes and lavish lifestyle.

This case serves as a reminder about the allure and fascination that surrounds women who commit elaborate high-stakes crimes, as well as how easily the public trivialises these and co-opts them into a ‘girlboss’ narrative.

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