Benjamin Eitan Ackerman is accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of items from celebrity homes in the Hollywood Hills area over a period of several months. The Los Angeles Police Department arrested Ackerman in September of 2018 but waited until January 2, 2019, to reveal the suspect’s name.
Detectives said Ackerman would show up at open houses, posing as either an interested buyer or real estate agent, and return later to steal high-value items. People whose homes were burglarized included singers Usher, Jason Derulo, and Adam Lambert.
Ackerman was arrested after police said they recovered more than 2,000 stolen items from a storage locker belonging to Ackerman.
Investigators waited several months before announcing formal charges on August 22, 2019. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office is charging Ackerman and an alleged accomplice, identified as Jason Emil Yaselli, on dozens of counts including money laundering, first-degree residential burglary, identity theft, and conspiracy to commit burglary and money laundering.
Ackerman was arrested again on August 16, 2019, according to online records via the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released from custody on August 20. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for October 3, 2019.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Police First Identified Ackerman as a Person of Interest in One Burglary, Which Resulted in a Search Warrant; Police Recovered More Than 2,000 Items at Ackerman’s Home & in a Storage Locker
The Los Angeles Police Department has been investigating multiple break-ins throughout 2017 and 2018. The homes of several celebrities were targeted. For example, Usher’s home near the Sunset Strip was burglarized in April of 2018. Thieves stole cash and jewelry valued at more than $800,000. Other celebrities targeted include Jason Derulo, Adam Lambert, and Dorit Lemel.
During a news conference on January 2, 2019, officers revealed that during the initial investigation, Benjamin Eitan Ackerman was named as a person of interest in one of the burglaries. They did not specify which one.
Detectives executed a search warrant at Ackerman’s home and at a storage unit he kept. They found more than 2,000 high-value items, including artwork, clothing, purses, jewelry and fine wine. Police did not give an exact estimate of how much all of the items were worth, but said the items were worth “multiple millions of dollars.”
According to inmate records, Ackerman was originally arrested on September 20, 2018. Bail was set at $1 million and he was released on September 24, 2018.
2. Police: Ackerman Targeted Homes That Were For Sale & Posed as Either a Buyer or a Real Estate Broker
Benjamin Ackerman and Jason Emil Yaselli set their sights on homes that were for sale, according to Deputy District Attorney Stephen Morgan of the White Collar Crime Division. During a news conference in January, Detective Jared Timmons, the lead investigator, explained that Ackerman would canvass the homes first before returning later to grab the items he wanted.
Detective Timmons said Ackerman knew how to fit in easily at open houses. Investigators believe Ackerman would pose as either an interested buyer or as a real estate agent looking to show the property. Timmons described Ackerman as “sophisticated” and “slick” and that he would be “dressed to the nines” when he toured homes. Timmons said no one questioned whether Ackerman was supposed to be there or checked out his supposed credentials.
Prosecutors shared on August 22 that they believe Jason Emil Yaselli may have been the ringleader in the plot. They included in the press release about the charges that “Yaselli allegedly encouraged Ackerman to steal luxury items from 14 homes, sell them and use the proceeds to make payments on Yaselli’s credit card.”
3. Ackerman Allegedly Tampered With Surveillance Video at the Burglarized Homes
Detective Timmons added during the news conference that Benjamin Eitan Ackerman appears to have been “fluent with computers and technology.” The targeted homes had surveillance cameras but investigators said the footage was damaged in some cases.
In some instances, the cameras were ripped out. In other cases, the footage simply went black during the time of the burglaries. Timmons said the department is “still looking into” what would have caused the footage to go dark.
In early October of 2018, Los Angeles police arrested another group of people accused of stealing from celebrity homes in the area. Detective Timmons said there does not appear to be a connection between that group and Ackerman, but they are investigating to see if any possible connection exists.
4. Ackerman Is Charged With 32 Counts & Facing More Than 30 Years Behind Bars
Benjamin Eitan Ackerman is charged on 32 counts, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney. The charges include:
- 32 counts of money laundering
- 12 counts of first-degree residential burglary
- Two counts of first-degree residential burglary with a person present
- Two counts of identity theft
- One count of conspiracy to commit burglary
- One count of conspiracy to commit money laundering
Ackerman’s bail was set at $1.2 million after he appeared in front of a judge on August 19 and pleaded not guilty. He was released the following day. Prosecutors said the potential maximum punishment if convicted on the charges is more than 31 years in state prison.
Ackerman’s attorney, Gary Kaufman, told CBS Los Angeles that he believes the case is being ramped up for publicity purposes because many of the alleged victims are celebrities. “The People’s case is no better today than it was a year ago… Unlike a fine wine, this case does not get better with age. Mr. Ackerman is not just presumed to be innocent, he is, in fact, innocent.”
5. Police: Benjamin Ackerman Has a Prior Criminal Record & Reportedly Burglarized the Home of a Family Friend
Benjamin Eitan Ackerman is 33 years old. (His birthday is April 24, 1986). Police said he is from the Los Angeles area.
Detective Timmons added that Ackerman has “connections” to the New York area, but did not expand on that. He also said Ackerman has a prior criminal record, but again, did not go into detail about past crimes. An online search of records shows an arrest that occurred in December of 2013 in Los Angeles County on a misdemeanor charge. Ackerman’s name does not come up in a search of federal records.
During the news conference on January 2, Detective Timmons explained that Ackerman appears to have targeted any high-value target he could. Apparently, one of the burglary victims was identified as a family friend of Ackerman’s.