Meili Cady moved to L.A. to become an actress, not a criminal. In a strangely fortuitous way, she’d wind up doing both thanks to a headline-grabbing run-in with the law. In fact, her life would make a good black comedy on cable if a similar show didn't already exist.
In 2010, Cady and three others were arrested for smuggling more than 500 pounds of marijuana into Columbus, Ohio. The later-convicted ring leader was Lisette Lee, a 28-year-old tough, no-nonsense Korean-American socialite who grew up in and around Beverly Hills. She had a resume’s worth of lies and tall tales, including her claim to being a member of the Samsung family. She also had the distinction of being the lone female named on L.A. Weekly’s list of “Top 5 Douches” of 2011.
Cady was 20 when she arrived in Los Angeles from the Puget Sound shipping town of Bremerton, Washington, in 2005. “Ever since I could remember, a career in film seemed like a perfectly respectable pursuit,” she writes in her new book, Smoke: How a Small-Town Girl Accidentally Wound Up Smuggling Seven Tons of Marijuana With the Pot Princess of Beverly Hills. Acting was in her lineage: Her great-aunt Wanda Hawley was a contract actress for Paramount Pictures, appearing in a string of Cecil B. DeMille films.
“It was always my goal,” Cady, 29, says on a recent Saturday night at Bar Verde inside Nordstrom at The Grove. “I wouldn’t listen to the idea of a backup plan.”
But as a new transplant, Cady was lonely and wanted to make friends. In 2006, she met Lee through a mutual friend who told Cady that Lee was a Samsung heiress. He said Lee was looking for a down-to-earth girl, and Cady admits she was as green as they came. Lee was rich. Her Myspace profile name was “RoyalPrincess007.”
Lee pursued Cady, and during their first outing together they went shopping on Melrose Avenue. When Cady mentioned her desire to lose weight, Lee suggested doing “blow” to slim down. They worked, traveled — and partied — together. They became BFFs. You could compare their relationship to that of Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon’s on Orange Is the New Black, minus the lesbian love affair.
Within a few years, the two friends had become highly paid drug mules, with Lee acting as the ring leader of a larger group. In 2010 the duo, along with Lee's other drug partners, were arrested by the feds. Cady was convicted and received a jail sentence of just 30 days in jail, plus one year of house arrest, In 2011, Lee was sentenced to six years in prison. She’s being released this year.
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After things fell apart, while holed up in her Koreatown apartment, Cady started a blog, Housearrestgirl.com. In it, she chronicled the sometimes amusing challenges of living with an electronic monitoring bracelet. “Dating is going to be interesting this year,” she wrote in one post. “Then again, it's possible that I could find a guy who's a huge Star Wars fan and I could be like Princess Leia in chains, waiting to be saved."
Then, while working as a restaurant server, naturally, Cady met a producer from Steve Carell’s production company who was familiar with her blog.
The producer pitched her story, as a sitcom, to 20th Century Fox. The studio passed on that idea, but by then Cady had inked a book deal. In 2013, it was reported that Paramount Pictures had optioned both a 2012 Rolling Stone article on the case as well as Cady’s life rights, with Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) attached to direct the movie.