Victoriaville is a small town in Quebec better known for its cheese curds than for its criminals. But in the summer of 2014, the region made international headlines when a group of teenaged thieves led by a 21-year-old woman was busted for robbing dozens of homes, Bling Ring style.
Mastermind Stéphanie Beaudoin's Facebook profile went viral, catapulting her into overnight fame as the "world's hottest thief."
This week, Beaudoin was sentenced to 90 days in prison—to be served on weekends—for breaking into at least 39 houses and making off with $80,000 worth of cash and luxury goods. She was also charged with illegal possession of three firearms, which were found in the trunk of her car.
Her three very minor accomplices (aged 11, 13, and 17) are being handled by the Court of Québec's Youth Division, and their identities are kept secret because of their age. Beaudoin told VICE this is a privilege she would have liked to share. "I could have done this when I was 15," she said. "Well, I could have not done it at all, but I did it. And if I had to choose, I would have done it when I was a minor."
Still, both Beaudoin and her lawyer seemed at peace with the ruling. "I told her it would be a good opportunity to bring a book in on Saturday and have it done when it's time to leave," said lawyer Denis Lavigne.
Between June 21 and August 5, 2014, Stéphanie Beaudoin broke into more than 30 houses in Victoriaville with her three accomplices, generally coming in through the basement window. By the end of their spree, they'd stolen $80,000 [$58,000 USD] worth of goods and money. Beaudoin's trademark white Mitsubishi Lancer, adorned with pink rims, was spotted at the scene of the crime a number of times, prompting an unforeseen end to the series of burglaries they were committing. Had it not been for the noticeable blunder, the crime wave might have lasted much longer.
Beaudoin told VICE she had a hunch that something was up before her arrest.
"I knew I was going to be arrested because I had been followed for a week. But I wasn't able to stop—it was just so intense." Initially oblivious to the police's tracking, she says her boyfriend tipped her off to the chase. "[He] had taken my car, and at one time, he took a road that no one uses unless they're going to a specific location, so he understood that he was being followed," she said. "When he turned around, he saw the police badge. He told me, 'I don't know what it is that you're doing, but stop it right now because you're being followed.'"
The former nursing student says this did little to deter her from continuing with her crime spree.
Provincial police showed up on her doorstep on August 5, 2014 and found $7,000 [$5,000 USD] cash in the trunk of her car.
Immediately, Beaudoin asked an officer for permission to delete her Facebook profile for fear that some of the racier content she had shared would be used against her.
"I told him I had some pretty compromising pictures and asked him to lend me his phone so that I could log on Facebook. He said, 'No, no, it can't be that bad.' And that was it." When she arrived at the station, it was already too late. "Journalists had saved the pictures. It was over."
Beaudoin saw the officer again last week. "He said, 'I never thought this would go worldwide!'" she said. But it did. "The sexy thief" became a meme, inspiring articles, tweets, and even an action figure. It's not the first time in recent memory that the media has trained such intense focus on on a criminal's appearance. It's not even the first time that such attention has provided a career path: Jeremy Meeks, a.k.a. the hot mugshot guy, eventually started a modeling career with White Cross Management after his time in prison for armed robbery.
Before her arrest, Beaudoin had been a fledgling model with a limited career that mostly consisted of posing for calendars. "Nothing really big," she said. But as her picture continued to make international headlines, the young woman became in demand. In July 2015, her photo made the cover of local mens mag Summum, and in September 2015, she was recruited by B Models Management.
But the judge's ruling limits her professional opportunities: While she can continue to model, her image can't be used to promote criminal behavior, which means she pretty much has to drop the "sexy thief" monicker. In his ruling, the judge strongly recommended she stop modeling altogether, since keeping creative control over her image could be difficult. Her modeling agency says it is "studying current options" for more opportunities.
Beaudoin is OK with these restrictions.
"I can have modeling contracts as Stéphanie Beaudoin. I could have my face on a skin care product," she said. "I just can't do it if the brand says something like 'Stephanie the criminal' or whatever. It's a pretty OK condition."