A Salem, Oregon, woman went from best friend to frenemy after friends and family say she stole thousands of dollars from them.
Vicheka Ly, 24, is currently in custody at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, California, without bail. Ly, who calls herself Vee, is facing charges of theft, identity theft, and forgery and could be extradited back to Oregon to face the charges. She is accused of befriending people throughout Oregon and then stealing their cash , credit cards, and their trust.
One of Ly’s alleged victims is aspiring pastry chef Taylor Nunes, 22, who said she became friends with Ly after meeting her at a fundraiser event in Portland last spring.
“[She said], ‘Oh, your hair is so beautiful. Oh, I love your dress. Oh, your skin is so nice. Oh, you’re just so pretty. Oh, I just want to be just like you. You’re so sweet,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s like a lot of compliments,’” Nunes told “20/20.”
Nunes said Ly had money to take her shopping and hinted she was close with famous people.
“[She said] she’s best friends with LeBron James and a bunch of different basketball players ... movie stars,” Nunes said.
Nunes said Ly was constantly there for her, including when Nunes’ beloved dog died. “I thought I could trust her,” Nunes said.
Not long after they met, Nunes said Ly picked out an apartment for the two of them to share. But Nunes said Ly told her she didn’t "have rental history so her name couldn’t be on the lease.”
Soon after, Nunes said $400 of unfamiliar charges turned up on her credit card, and her expensive hair straightener went missing. Then, on a shopping run together, Nunes said Ly flashed a large amount of cash.
“She’s buying like $2,000 worth of bedroom and house stuff, like towels. We were at the cash register, and she was going through her wallet,” Nunes recalled. “And I just kind of looked over, and she opened it up. And there was just ... so much money in there.”
Twenty-four hours later, Nunes said she checked the secret hiding place in her bedroom where she kept her cash and other personal documents and discovered many things had been stolen.
“She went through all my belongings when I wasn’t home and stole my Social Security card, debit cards, PIN numbers and stole $13,000 cash,” Nunes said. “It was how I was paying my rent. It was how I was paying my car insurance. It was how I was paying food, paying my heat. I knew that it was her who had to have taken it.”
Nunes said she confronted Ly about the stolen money and she denied taking it. A few days later, Nunes said Ly took off, telling her she was heading to Los Angeles.
Nunes went to the police, who checked a series of unsolved cases and found that it wasn’t the first time Ly had been accused of stealing from her friends.
Leilani Gutierrez, 25, said she met Ly six years ago in Hillsboro, Oregon, when she was a frequent customer at the grocery store where Gutierrez worked. They became best friends and Ly attended her wedding, but this past May, Gutierrez said Ly took her passport and credit card and went on a 36-hour shopping spree.
“I checked my bank account online, and it was, ‘What are all these charges?’ American Eagle, H&M, Albertson’s, some clubs, cab rides. She tried to buy … 13 airline tickets. She tried to charge $8,000, and that was one day,” Gutierrez told “20/20.”
Gutierrez never saw Ly again. “She is always one step ahead,” Gutierrez said.
Sonja Cecil, 23, said she first met Ly at a Portland nightclub. Cecil said Ly claimed she had mega-rich parents and bought Cecil clothes and dinners.
Ly eventually talked her way into becoming Cecil’s roommate, but when Ly ditched their apartment months later, Cecil said Ly left a $3,600 rent bill behind.
“It was almost as if she sought out a certain type of person, became friends with that person, and then would victimize them a little bit before doing something to cause her to cut ties with that person and leave,” Det. Patrick Altiere, who spearheaded the growing look into Ly’s activities, told “20/20.”
Ly’s estranged sister, Marie Ly, believes her sister does this because she is simply lazy and doesn’t want to work.
“Maybe she [expects people to just] hand her stuff, because she was spoiled,” Marie Ly told “20/20.” “Maybe if I [did] something more, she wouldn’t turn out to be like that.”
Marie Ly said her sister never graduated high school. In 2008, Marie said her family kicked Vee Ly out of the house, and some money went missing. Last year, Marie Ly took her sister in and offered her room and board in exchange for some nanny work, but then she too became one of her alleged victims.
“One night my husband and I wanted to have a nice dinner, and we know that we have extra money. We open that safe box, and my husband [screamed] from upstairs like I never heard him scream like that in my life. He’s like, ‘Money’s gone,’” Marie Ly said.
Marie Ly said she confronted her sister about taking the almost $10,000 that was missing from their safe box. Vee Ly denied taking the money and never came back to the house.
“Being betrayed by someone you love, it’s like somebody [took] a knife and [stabbed] your heart. For a year I beat myself ... ‘Why do I trust people?’” Marie Ly said.
Vee Ly was arrested on Nov. 12 by Los Angeles police thanks to a 911 call from her new friends, roommates Margeaux Vallee and Jamie Charoen. After two weeks of couch surfing at Charoen’s Studio City apartment, she and Vallee became suspicious of Ly’s far-fetched stories.
“She said she had houses in Pasadena. She had houses in Riverside. She said she had so much money, yet she doesn’t have a car. She doesn’t have any way of getting money. She would keep borrowing money from Jamie saying that she’ll pay her back,” Vallee told “20/20.”
Vallee and Charoen’s suspicions led them to do a Google search of Vee Ly’s full name, they were flabbergasted by the results.
“There’s Facebook pages that are dedicated to finding her, Twitter accounts, reposts that are just sharing all these things,” Vallee said. “I start tearing up and look at Jamie and say, ‘This girl is psycho.’” They called police.
Back in Oregon, Ly’s other alleged victims were ecstatic over the news of her arrest.
“She was doing the same exact thing, moved in with a girl, became [best friends] and was going to do the same thing,” Nunes said. “And I’m glad that she stood up to do the right thing.”
“She has to pay for what she did to me,” Marie Ly said. “There’s a lot of people [affected] by it. That’s their life savings… She needs help. She needs to admit it that ‘I need help.’ There’s no excuse.”