A Beverly Hills man has appeared in court accused of masterminding burglaries of the homes of the rich and famous including Usher and Adam Lambert.
Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, 37, was pictured before a judge on Wednesday accused of stealing millions of dollars worth of jewelry, designer purses, shoes and art from celebrity homes while posing as a realtor.
After being arrested in January 2019, police recovered 2,000 items stashed in his home and a storage unit.
California prosecutors said at least $5.5 million in valuables was taken from the homes between December 2016 and July 2018.
One Beverly Hills home that was targeted by the two burglars had 150 luxury items stolen – totaling around $2.5 million.
Benjamin Ackerman listens as the judge decides what evidence can be presented at his trial, which will begin on August 21
Usher (pictured) and his ex-wife Grace Migel found themselves victims of the burglary ring after putting their house up for sale
Detectives discovered more than 2,500 stolen items in Ackerman’s home and a storage unit he owned. Messages between Ackerman and Yaselli showed the pair discussing stealing from celebrities Usher and Adam Lambert
Dorit and Paul Kemsley were one of the hardest hit by the burglary, and had items worth at least $2.5million stolen from their Beverly Hills mansion while they were away
Ackerman was pictured in the Beverly Hills court dressed in a black tracksuit and white t-shirt. He sat back with his arms folded, watching on as his lawyers wrangled with the judge.
The hearing was held to determine what evidence will be allowed to be presented at trial, due to begin with jury selection on August 21.
Ackerman previously pleaded no contest – neither disputed nor admitted – to stealing from the homes of Usher, Queen front man Adam Lambert, and Real Housewives star Dorit Kemsley.
He also pleaded not guilty to three other counts, including a 2017 break-in at former NFL player Shaun Phillips’ home.
Judge Mark S. Arnold on Wednesday ruled that witness statements were allowed to be presented during the trial.
His lawyers in July said he was ‘contesting and proceeding to trial on the charges that he is innocent of,’ referring to the three remaining burglary charges.
He ‘has accepted responsibility for what he did’, his lawyers said at the time, and Ackerman pleaded guilty to 11 counts of residential burglary, 28 counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The charges carry a maximum of 45 years behind bars.
Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, 37, is seen on Wednesday at a pre-trial hearing in Los Angeles
Ackerman has pleaded guilty to multiple charges of burglary, but is contesting three counts
Judge Mark S. Arnold is seen presiding over the pretrial hearing on Wednesday
Ackerman targeted Adam Lambert’s luxury three-bedroom, 3,049-square-foot home nestled above the Sunset Strip after it was put on the market for $3.35 million. He saw the property on an online listing, and went back on more than one occasion to pocket luxury goods
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stars Dorit and Paul Kemsley were robbed while they were away from the $12.75million mansion, pictured. The couple realized that several high-ticket items had been taken, with cops estimating around $2.5million worth of valuables was stolen
Usher and his then wife Grace Migel found themselves targeted by the due in 2018, after they put up their $4.2million property near to the luxury Chateau Marmont on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. The listing emphasized the ‘striking artwork’ and ‘eye-catching décor,’ and also had several pictures of the inside of the property with plenty of belongings on show
Ackerman is accused of working with Los Angeles real estate agent Jason Emil Yaselli, 36, to raid the celebrity homes.
Prosecutors say Yaselli encouraged Ackerman to steal items from 14 homes, sell them and use the profits to pay off Yaselli’s credit card.
Each month, Ackerman deposited between $5,500 and $20,000 into Yaselli’s account, prosecutors said.
Detective Jared Timmons with LAPD said that Ackerman posed as a realtor to look inside the homes.
‘When he showed up, he was dressed to the nines,’ Timmons said. ‘He acted the part. He was very slick.’
Ackerman targeted Lambert’s luxury three-bedroom, 3,049-square-foot home nestled above the Sunset Strip after it was put on the market for $3.35 million.
He saw the property on an online listing, and went back on more than one occasion to pocket luxury goods.
Often victims of the clandestine and calculated burglaries did not realize that there had been a break-in – with some noticing months later that their high-ticket valuables were gone.
Paradigm Talent Agency boss Michael Gores, former Vanity Fair editor Punch Hutton and Logitechs entertainment and talents boss Linna Stalberg were also left out of pocket by the devious thieves.
At the time, investigators suspected Ackerman did not work alone.
During their investigation, they found surveillance videos that had been tampered with and cameras that had been ripped out of their settings.
‘Cameras would simply go black until several hours after the burglary occurred,’ Timmons said.
Real estate agent Jason Yaselli, right, and ‘slick’ Benjamin Ackerman are both accused of masterminding the multi-milion dollar bling ring which saw the duo target celebrity homes and pilfer luxury items before sending them on
Jason Emil Yaselli, pictured here being arrested by cops, claims that he had nothing to do with the thefts. But authorities say that he is just as ‘morally responsible’ for the crimes as Ackerman who broke into the homes
Ackerman allegedly stole expensive artwork, designer clothing, bags and luxury jewelry and watches from the celebrities homes. Detectives discovered more than 2,500 stolen items in Ackerman’s home and a storage unit he owned
Luxury jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was recovered from Ackerman modest-two story home which had been installed with an extensive camera system to keep the stolen goods safe
As well as jewelry and watches, Ackerman also took items such as crystals or sports memorabilia to try to flog for a high price. Intricate gold jewelry was discovered in his home, but not everything stolen was recovered by cops
Twelve LAPD officers raided his home in September 2018, and discovered a 15-camera indoor-outdoor surveillance system.
A helicopter and tactical team were also called in to arrest one of the masterminds behind the operation.
Designer clothing was organized by brand: Balenciaga, Chanel, Fendi, Givenchy, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, as handbags worth $100,000 were also found.
Goyard wallets, Cartier, Patek, Phillipe and Rolex watches were also recovered as well as diamond encrusted Gucci hair clips and hundreds of bottles of expensive wine.
Authorities claim that Ackerman was ‘sophisticated’ and would tamper with surveillance cameras.
On some occasions he would just rip it out of the wall, while on others the footage would go blank until several hours after the burglary occurred.
Both Yaselli and Ackerman would reportedly trawl through online real estate listings to hone in on their targets.
Ackerman targeted properties by looking at lavish properties for sale online. Some would even have a 3D tour feature which would allow him to take his time to identify specific items that he wanted to try to walk away with
Hundreds of designer bags were discovered by officers after the raid on Ackmans’ property close to where one of the victims lived. He had organized the luxury handbags by their designers, which included Balenciaga, Chanel and Louis Vuitton
Glittering earrings were amongst the thousands of pieces of jewelry that were recovered from the heists, which police say were conducted in a ‘slick and surgical’ manner
Ackerman would also pose as a realtor during recon missions during open houses, in an attempt to identify which properties would get them the largest haul.
In once instance Ackerman even targeted a long-time family friend of his, making off with a family heirloom which has never been recovered.
It is unclear how the pair met, but messages between them show that they were in regular contact about how to acquire more wealth.
After stealing the items they would sell them on to pawnshops and second hand luxury retailers – with Ackerman then depositing the proceeds into his account.
He would then transfer them to Yaselli, who would use the money to pay the bills Ackerman had racked up on his partners credit cards.
Yaselli would then receive American Airlines frequent-flyer miles on top of Amex travel reward points.
Despite never stepping foot into a single property, Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Strodel said that Yaselli is ‘morally and legally just as responsible’ for the crimes.
DailyMail.com takes a look at some of the evidence that a jury is set to hear about how the duo allegedly broke into the homes and stole millions of dollars’ worth of property.
USHER AND EX-WIFE GRACE MIGEL
The two burglars took a Louis Vuitton bag which was not recovered by the LAPD
20 MARCH 2018
Usher and his then wife Grace Migel found themselves targeted by the due in 2018, after they put up their $4.2million property near to the luxury Chateau Marmont on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.
The listing emphasized the ‘striking artwork’ and ‘eye-catching décor,’ and also had several pictures of the inside of the property with plenty of belongings on show.
Ackerman is accused of stealing an NBA championship ring from the Cleveland Cavalier’s Finals victory in 2016 that was gifted to the rapper by LeBron James.
He also pocketed a $220,000 watch, a necklace worth $200,000, expensive wine, $20,000 in cash, and a Louis Vuitton bag.
The singer was out of pocket around $800,000 after the thieves targeted his plush property.
Of everything that was stolen only a gold necklace imprinted with the singer’s name and another featuring an arrowhead gem were recovered by cops.
But despite deliberately targeting lavish properties, Ackerman didn’t realize he was robbing Ushers home when he was inside.
He texted Yashelli: ‘Omg it was Usher!!!!! I wonder if there’s a song that has both Usher and Adam Lambert’ along with smiley emojis.
Officers did recover a gold necklace imprinted with the singer’s name and another featuring an arrowhead gem which were stolen from the singer
Adam Lambert was gifted a picture from Freddie Mercury which was inscribed to him
30 NOVEMBER AND 2 DECEMBER 2017
Singer Adam Lambert was trying to offload his $4 million property in the Hollywood Hills when he was on tour with Queen.
He had a photo of Freddie Mercury stolen from his wall, which was inscribed with ‘To Adam,’ along with a number of other items.
When police eventually recovered it in 2018, it was hanging in Ackerman’s laundry room.
It is thought that Ackerman had changed the inscription himself, painting over the words to say ‘to Ben.’
RABBI KAREN FOX AND MICHAEL ROSEN
7 JULY TO AUGUST 14 2017
The menorah-shaped brooch was recovered by police after being stolen by Ackerman
Rabbi Fox and her husband Michael Rosen had trusted Ackerman to move their mail to their backyard as he was the son of a close family friend.
Fox’s grandmother sold pieces of a family heirloom to feed her family, buy medicine and escape Germany for the US during World War II.
The rabbi kept the remains of the gold necklace with other heirlooms in a safe in her bedroom, as well as several other pieces of jewelry.
Ackerman took a menorah-shaped brooch and a standing bass that the couple’s son owned, which was recovered by police.
She and her husband flew to New York to meet their new-born grandchild in 2017, asking Ackerman to take care of the property.
He texted Yaselli to brag that the couple had ‘left their safe unlocked’, before adding ‘I’m inside, going through with it’.
Ackerman had previously attended Shabbat and Passover dinners with his family at the property, so was familiar with the layout.
He took his time going through their property because he knew when they would be back, telling Yaselli ‘I’m sure there’s cash in here too’.
The heirloom necklace was never recovered, and Fox told a court in March that it had represented ‘our family’s survival story, a Jewish survival story’.
She added that she had planned to pass the necklace down through the generations, adding that her and her husband had sold their home of 35 years after the burglary.
They said it was because they didn’t feel safe in their own home knowing that Ackerman lived only a few blocks away.
He also took a standing bass from the couple, who had been longstanding family friends with his parents and asked him to move their mail
4 DECEMBER 2016
Chanel bags, pictured, were stolen from Stalbergs home after it went on the market
Court documents seen by Bloomberg, claim that Ackerman decided to target Stalberg’s cottage after it went on the market for $1.7million.
He text Yaselli: ‘I’ve got Sunday set up for at least 5k’, before breaking into the marketing executives home.
She collected expensive jewelry and designer handbags – including Chanel, Givenchy, and Louis Vuitton.
Ackerman posed as a realtor while attending an open house at the huge property, which was again listed online showing off the various luxuries.
Stalberg locked away her valuables in a safe before the open house and put her handbags into their protective coverings and stashed them in a closet.
She only noticed that they were missing after pulling out a ladder to retrieve her bags the evening after the open house.
He stole the bags from the high shelf, before leaving through her backyard. Ackerman texted Yaselli: ‘Chanel, Easy out via yard’ shortly before the theft.
Ackerman took several purses, but only four Chanel purses worth around $20,000 to $50,000 were recovered by the LAPD.
PUNCH HUTTON AND JOHN HODGES
3 DECEMBER 2017
Detailed notes made by Hutton show exactly how Ackerman managed to break into the property
Former Vanity Fair Editor Punch Hutton and her film-producer husband John Hodges were also targeted by the thieving pair.
The couple locked up their home, which is located close to Lambert and Usher’s properties near Chateau Marmont, and left for an open house event.
An online listing included dozens of photos and a 3D tour of their home which showed off their personal possessions.
Ackerman, after spotting the listing online, jumped over their backyard fence and hoisted himself onto the roof.
He then pushed open a window in the master bedroom, which he had unlocked earlier during an open house.
After successfully stealing a Louis Vuitton tote and a blue Goyard tote, along with a jewelry box, he took a picture and sent it to Yaselli saying: ‘Well just when you thought the day was done ;)’
He admitted ‘watching the house’ for a while, and Yaselli responded: ‘That’s you right now!!’.
Hutton and Hodges returned home to discover that her jewelry, bags and her husbands Rolexes were missing.
In total the couple had around $215,000 worth of valuable stolen, and Hutton noticed that a window was open with a smudge beneath it.
She then spotted fingerprints, a handprint, and a shoe print, which police later matched to Ackerman’s – they also recovered one of the bags and some of the less valuable jewelry.
DORIT AND PAUL KEMSLEY
28 JUNE 2018
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stars Dorit and Paul Kemsley were robbed while they were away from the $12.75 million mansion.
Ackerman is accused of stealing artwork, jewelry, a large and expensive wine collection, wallets and handbags worth more than $2.5million.
It was the largest haul the ‘surgical and slick’ burglar was able to pocket in just a single property that he targeted.
Officers recovered more than 150 items, including 43 purses and handbags, 30 bracelets, 25 necklaces, and a Social Security card.
It is not clear how Ackerman knew the couple were away from the property, but he previously admitted ‘watching’ other properties before he targeted them in the sting.
They also found framed photos, of Fay Dunaway, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Clint Eastwood by Terry O’Neill.
Framed photos, of Fay Dunaway, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Clint Eastwood by Terry O’Neill were all stolen from the property in Beverly Hills
MICHAEL AND REBECCA GORES
21 JULY 2018
Artwork from the Gores’ property was discovered in Ackerman’s home after police raided the two-story building in September 2018.
Ackerman reportedly stole a print by renowned LA artist Ed Ruscha, Jet Baby, from Michael Gores who leads Paradigm Talent Agency who represent Stephen King, Zoe Kravitz and Sydney Sweeney.
The total value of items stolen from their home after an open house was around $200,000 and it was again advertised online.
It is thought that Ackerman stole an AirPods case decorated with the Paradigm logo on it as a trophy, but they have never been recovered.
After raiding the Gores’ property Ackerman sparked the interest of an auctioneer, after asking the value of another stolen print that belonged to the couple by street artist Retna.
The auctioneer contacted the couple, alerting them to a potential suspect, who passed the information on to the LAPD which lead to Ackerman’s arrest.