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Dreams go up in smoke for aspiring Hollywood actress

LOS ANGELES -- Meili Cady was a quintessential small-town girl, with dreams of being a Hollywood actress. But her plans were derailed when she got caught up in a pot smuggling ring in California, CBS News Los Angeles reports.

When Meili moved from Washington State to California to pursue her acting dreams, she had to figure out how to get by. She was sometimes able to pick up work as an extra, and even caught a lucky break when she landed a speaking role in the HBO series "Californication."

Even though the experience was just one time, it earned Meili some extra cash and a Screen Actors Guild card. Things were looking up, but what Meili never could have imagined was that her notoriety wouldn't come from acting, it would come from something much more sinister.

It all began with a mysterious friend named Lysette Lee.

"She had this sort of rare, regal confidence about her," Meili told KCAL. "A person who was unsure of myself and unsure of my place in the world, it was a comfort to meet someone who seemed to have it all together."

Lysette appeared to have money too. She had a nice condo and a nice car, and she was dressed in designer clothing. She told Meili she was an heiress to the Samsung fortune.

"When I got to know her initially she said, 'Well, I went to Harvard, I went to finishing school in London, and I fly around on private planes," said Meili.

Lysette's claims didn't stop there. She also told Meili she was a pop star in Asia as well. However, there was no evidence of it because her powerful and disapproving parents blocked all evidence of her signing career from the Internet. She did though share a video with Meili.

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Meili Cady (L) with Lysette Lee (R). The two friends were inseparable. Meili describes their friendship as having been adolescent. CBS News Los Angeles KCAL

Meili told KCAL, the video, which was footage of an Asian woman in her 20s with a lot of makeup and dancing in an elaborate costume, was very blurry and "sounded like a Korean pop song."

"She would always say, 'Sorry for the video quality, I pulled it off the Internet before my parents pulled it down,' " she said.

KCAL reports, that despite it all, the two women became inseparable. They gave each other gifts and cards, and Lysette was even able to convince the once small-town-girl to try cocaine. Lysette made Meili promise she would be loyal only to her, suggesting they take a blood oath.

"A lot of our friendship was very adolescent," said Meili. "I think it was kind of an escape for both of us for different reasons."

But Meili still was having trouble making ends meet. There were very few auditions, the phone wasn't ringing and Meili was starting to feel the financial pressure. That's when Lysette made Meili an offer she couldn't turn down.

"She said, 'I'm going to pay you enough money to live, you get to travel with your best friend, and I'm going to give you time off whenever you need for action auditions or whatever you want,' " Meili told KCAL.

Lysette's job for Meili would pay $2,000 per trip. It would require Meili to fly with her on private jets to undisclosed locations. Meili told KCAL she was not to ask any questions and do exactly what Lysette asked her to do. And she did.

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Lysette Lee who was sentenced to five years for being the mastermind behind a pot trafficking ring. CBS News Los Angeles KCAL

The first task at the bank was to charter the jets. The operation, Meili said, was shady from the start.

"I think it was $40,000 in cash that she was having transferred in my name," she said. "I didn't have an account at the bank, but in my name to pay for the planes."

Meili would continue to do this for every flight. She said she knew it wasn't right and that she could be a red flag to the IRS.

Melli admits to KCAL she chose to ignore the sirens going off in her head. She said she never even knew where she was flying until she saw the airport signs. Meili would fly with men she didn't know and eventually realized the suitcases were full of money. Lysette once told Meili her father was a casino mogul, so she thought maybe Lysette was using to start a casino business.

"As I was on the plane, I would be like 'OK, I get paid tomorrow, and then I can pay this bill and that bill, catch up on rent,' " she said. "I had so many other things I was thinking about that the bigger picture never landed on me then."

"We would land in Ohio and rent a car, and I would check into a hotel and I would be sent back," she said. "I didn't know where everyone else went or where the suitcases went."

It wasn't long before things took a serious turn and Meili found herself in hot water.

"We got into the plane at LAX to fly out to Ohio, and immediately it smelled like pot," said Meili. "It smelled like what you would think hundreds of pounds of pot would smell like in a confined space."

And it was. By the time Meili knew the truth, it was too late.

"So, there were all these people who had seen me actively involved in a now very clearly criminal enterprise," she said to KCAL. "I can't just step away. ... I already felt so trapped.

"I felt like, 'What good is it to fight this wire transfer or go on this trip? What am i gonna do?'" she added.

She still continued and it was on the 10th flight on June 14, 2010, with 13 suitcases and 506 pounds of pot, Meili would be caught.

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Meili Cady was facing up to 40 years in prison per trip in what turned out to be 7,000 pounds worth of pot trafficked. CBS News Los Angeles KCAL

"We were met by about 30 DEA agents holding submachine guns and wearing bulletproof vests," Meili recalls. "I had a machine gun aimed at my face."

Meili was facing up to 40 years in prison per trip in what turned out to be 7,000 pounds worth of pot trafficked -- more than $3 million. But, after a long interrogation, the DEA let Meili go on bail. Lysette, on the other hand, wasn't going anywhere.

"It was very obvious that she was the organizer," said Meili. "They knew she had lied to everyone."

In the end Meili got 30 days in federal prison and one year of house arrest. Lysette was sentenced to five years in prison.

During her year of house arrest Meili started a blog called House Arrest Girl, documenting her day-to-day life, which is now in development for a comedy series. Meili also wrote a book called "Smoke" released this spring.

The notoriety Meili was once seeking has now come in a slightly different way. She has given countless interviews for magazines on her life as a drug trafficker, and recently even nabbed a spot in a nationwide Toyota commercial.

But Meili wants to make it clear, she not just a criminal trying to make a buck. She says the money and fame are not worth the hell she's been through.

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