Hollywood: the glitz, the glamour, where stars are born every day.
Fresh out of high school, Meili Cady wanted it, badly. She left her small town of Bremington, Wash., with little money and big dreams.
"I grew up ... watching the actors on 'Friends,'" Cady said in an interview with "20/20" co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas. "I wanted to do what they were doing."
Watch the full story on "20/20: The Ultimate Betrayal" TONIGHT at 10 ET.
Within six months, she burned through her money on acting classes, head shots and basic needs. She was lonely, she said.
Forget Ross and Rachel -- Meili wanted real friends. Someone in her acting class introduced her to a woman named Lisette Lee, who seemed to have it all together.
Cady said Lee told her she was "the Samsung heiress."
"She look[ed] the part, she act[ed] the part," Cady said. "She always seemed to have a lot of money.... She had a Mercedes ... she drove Bentleys."
Lee ran with a crowd befitting an heiress.
"She said that she went to school with Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, and she said that she dated Leonardo DiCaprio ... and Channing Tatum."
And that's not all.
"She said that she was an Asian pop star," Cady said. "She said she had No. 1 songs in Korea."
What did Lee see in Cady?
"[She said] she wanted to meet me because she was looking for someone who wasn't jaded by the town," Cady said.
The naïve newcomer and the sophisticated socialite hit it off.
"We sort of had our own private world," Cady said. "We would just hang out at her place and have drinks and stay up late and talk. ... She was someone that was one of the really bright spots in my life when not everything was always that great."
Cady landed some bit parts, but she was far from making it and was barely scraping by when, she said, Lee came to her with a job offer.
"She said, 'I want to hire you as my executive personal assistant,'" Cady recalled. "'I'll pay you in cash, and you'll be working for your best friend. And congratulations -- you pretty much just won the lottery.'"
That jackpot job was to fly with Lee on private jets moving heavy suitcases from Los Angeles to a seedy hotel room in Columbus, Ohio.
What was in those suitcases? And why Columbus? Cady didn't ask -- that was part of the deal, she said.
"I trusted her," Cady said. "We had four years of very close friendship."
Cady said that at the time she thought the suitcases likely contained cash.
"She said that her family was very involved in some casino business. ... To be honest, I knew we weren't selling Girl Scout cookies, you know?"
If lugging mystery suitcases was bizarre, Cady's other task was downright shady: wire money -- forty grand -- through her personal bank account to pay for those lavish private jets.
In her interview Cady claimed she told Lee she was uncomfortable.
"She said, 'You know what? Your job is so easy, I don't know what you're complaining about. ... I would be more than happy to throw a stick down Sunset Boulevard and hit some dumb [girl] who would do it for half the money,'" Cady recalled with a laugh.
Cady was in deep. She wanted a life in the fast lane, and now she had it. The money was intoxicating. But soon it all started to collapse.
During one trip, Cady said, "It smelled like pot on the plane. It was overwhelming."
The aspiring actress from Washington state had become a drug trafficker.
"I know it might sound hard to believe, but I didn't have that conversation with Lisette that would go something like, When were you going to tell me that we're smuggling drugs? This is illegal."
"I was very afraid," she continued. "She said she had private investigators [and that] she had a hit man on speed dial. We were drug dealers, and we were dealing with other drug dealers."
The drug runs continued. But her flights with her BFF were about to land her a date with the DEA.
During one trip, Cady said, "I looked up and I saw 30 or so DEA agents, and I looked to my right, and there was a machine gun aimed at my face."
Investigators discovered 500 pounds of marijuana. Cady and Lee were detained and questioned. Over the next few months, investigators learned that all the trips -- many involving Cady -- moved over 7,000 pounds of marijuana worth more than $3 million.
Her faux friend had also been playing a role, Cady said.
"I found out she had been lying about a lot of things," Cady said. Those things included her age, her relationships with stars, her private school background, that pop star career.
As for that Samsung connection, the company denied any relation to a Lisette Lee.
"I felt like an idiot. I was completely duped. She lied about everything. ... And I was looking at five to 40 years in prison," Cady said.
Lee and Cady pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Lee is serving a six-year sentence in a federal prison. Cady, who cooperated with authorities, was sentenced to one month in prison followed by a year of house arrest.
What would Cady want to say to Lee?
"I don't have anything I want to say to her. ... Ultimately, the consequences that I ended up suffering came from my own bad decisions, and I just have to move on with my life and try to have a good one."
But as we've seen over and over again, in Hollywood, bad decisions can sometimes pay off.
Cady has a mug shot, and had to wear an ankle bracelet -- but she blogged about it at housearrestgirl.com. The blog landed her a book deal. And Paramount Pictures is turning the whole story into a movie.
Maybe Cady isn't so naive after all.
Watch the full story on "20/20: The Ultimate Betrayal" TONIGHT at 10 ET.
Lisette has petitioned the court to reduce or vacate her sentence, and in a statement to ABC said Cady was a calculating liar "who knew exactly what was going on." The full statement to ABC News follows this article.
Lisette Lee Statement:
I've chosen not to participate in tonight's ABC 20/20 segment, but I thank ABC News for the opportunity to briefly respond.
The truth is very simple and straightforward. Viewers should judge for themselves whether the story Cady is selling is true or not. And I mean "selling" literally. Meili's latest reinvention is just one more attempt [to] sell herself to do anything to make it in Hollywood: tell-all book deals, movie deals and The Ricki Lake Show.
I ask the simple question: Why — if, according to Meili, I was such a "master manipulator" and "sociopath" — would she hang around me for four years? Four Years? Most normal people would have high-tailed it out of a relationship like that if someone were really that cruel or manipulative. Of course, that's not the truth.
Meili Cady knows full well the dynamic of our relationship. She was always getting into trouble; usually financial, but other times, some huge mess she created for herself as she was hiding the truth about her real life (and problems) in Hollywood from her family. Over the course of our friendship, I treated her as I would a younger sister. Like any relationship, it wasn't always perfect, but it served us both. So for her to portray me as anything less is a complete farce. I viewed Meili as a simple small town girl who was dying to be sophisticated. Above all else, she wanted to make it in Hollywood at ANY cost . . . the evidence of that was how she got her SAG card: by performing oral sex with a famous actor on-screen. Hardly the reinvented Meili we see today. For Meili to recant exactly how we REALLY were would not serve her new acting role as a professional victim, replete with portraying me in a negative light so she can create her place in the spotlight she has created for herself.
When the dust settled, I come to see that the seemingly "naive, innocent" girl from the small town world of Bremerton, WA, was running circles around me the entire time, and is gleefully tying her final noose knot as she attempts to profit from our case, my background and family name. A true Eve Harrington if there ever was one. I am a firm believer that the ultimate truth tends to eventually surface, no matter how long it takes, or in what form. That will occur very soon, where I will properly clarify the sequence of events that leads up to this present day debacle as well as to correct the distortion of my image in the media.