A Los Angeles man posing as a potential real estate buyer or broker allegedly "cased" celebrity homes — including property owned by Usher and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Dorit Kemsley — and possibly provided information to other suspects in a robbery ring that amassed over 2,000 stolen items worth millions of dollars, according to LAPD officials.
During a press conference at the LAPD Downtown headquarters on Wednesday, January 2, law enforcement officials said Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, 32, targeted celebrity homes that were for sale, or were being shown during open house appointments in the Hollywood Hills area.
Hollywood LAPD detectives served a search warrant in September on Ackerman's home and a storage unit to look for the stolen property and found additional evidence linking him to the burglaries that occurred between 2017 and 2018, said Hollywood LAPD Det. Jared Timmons.
The recovered items included rare artwork, and expensive clothing, purses, jewelry, fine wines and other items, authorities said.
Detectives were able to identify 13 burglary victims based on the items recovered from the storage unit and Ackerman's home. So far, authorities have identified Jason Derulo, Adam Lambert and Rebecca Hutton in addition to Usher and Kemsley as victims.
In one case, the victim was a family friend of Ackerman's, Timmons said. LAPD detectives noticed Ackerman's name in the open houses sign-in sheets and also found out that he would ask about rare artwork.
"Ackerman would act as an interested buyer or in purchasing the property, or he would pose as a real estate broker wanting to show the property," said LAPD Hollywood Division Capt. Cory Palka. "We believe there are additional victims based on the large volume of property that was recovered. We are asking the public's help in identifying additional victims, and most importantly, returning their property to them."
Timmons said there is an ongoing investigation as to how Ackerman and his possible accomplices were able to break in and obtain the items from the homes.
"The pictures you see before you are just a fraction of the over 2,000 items that we seized during this search warrant," Timmons said at the press conference, adding the value of the stolen property could be in the "multiple millions of dollars."
Timmons said Ackerman is also known to change the numbers on the art work and resell the items to other collectors. Detectives still have yet to inspect and verify some of the recovered valuables, Timmons said.
"We are still investigating who he was working with and exactly how he did that," Timmons said. "This person is very sophisticated. In a lot of these cases, we see a lot of tampered surveillance videos. We are still looking into that. That's still a part of our ongoing investigation to see how large crew... or people he was working with and how far that actually goes."
Timmons warned individuals selling their homes to make sure the person visiting their open houses is a verified broker or professional. The LAPD also has dedicated a website www.hollywoodburglary.smugmug.com listing the stolen items in the hopes to identify other victims.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office has not filed charges against Ackerman as of Wednesday morning.
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