A Log Angeles thief has been sentenced to 31 years behind bars for masterminding burglaries of the rich and famous by posing as a real estate agent.
Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, 37, appeared downcast as he was sentenced Wednesday for his role in stealing millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry, designer purses, shoes and artwork from celebrity victims including Usher and Adam Lampert.
Ackerman was initially arrested in January 2019 in a plot with alleged co-conspirator Jason Yaselli, who officials say worked in tandem to target mansions across Hollywood.
Throughout a near-two-year spree from December 2016 to July 2018, at least $5.5 million was taken from homes – with one Beverly Hills home losing 150 luxury items totaling $2.5 million in a single raid.
Benjamin Ackerman, 37, looked downcast as he was sentenced on Wednesday to 31 years in prison for a spree of high-profile burglaries
The thief posed as a real estate agent to scope out and gain access to mansions owned by the rich and famous
Victim Punch Hutton (pictured), the former editor of Vanity Fair, broke down as she read an impact statement at Ackerman’s sentencing hearing
Ackerman looked to the floor as he walked into the courthouse in prison uniform and handcuffs, before victims including the tearful former Vanity Fair editor Punch Hutton read out victim impact statements.
Ackerman was found guilty last month at Los Angeles Superior Court for the robberies, and previously pleaded no contest to some charges against him including stealing from the home of 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.
After his arrest in January 2019, investigators seized over 2,000 stolen items stashed in his home and a storage unit.
He allegedly teamed up with Yaselli, who was also arrested but the status of his criminal case is unclear, to trick their way into lavish mansions and scope them out.
Prosecutors say Yaselli encouraged ‘slick’ Ackerman to target a total of 14 mansions, before selling the stolen items and using 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.
Their alleged scheme saw Ackerman pose as a realtor to gain a closer look at the homes, which LAPD detective Jared Timmons described as him ‘dressed to the nines.’
‘He acted the part – he was very slick,’ Timmons added.
Usher (pictured) and his ex-wife Grace Miguel found themselves victims of the burglary ring after putting their house up for sale
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
Detectives discovered more than 2,500 stolen items in Ackerman’s home and a storage unit he owned. Messages from Ackerman showed him discussing stealing from celebrities Usher and Adam Lambert
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
Lambert had a signed picture from Freddie Mercury which was inscribed to him stolen from his home
Punch Hutton, the former deputy editor of Vanity Fair who was pictured bursting into tears as she spoke at Ackerman’s sentencing Wednesday, had her home targeted in December 2017.
Hutton and her film producer husband John Hodges became victims after leaving their home for an open house event in a lavish neighborhood also home to Usher and Lampert.
An online listing included dozens of photos and a 3D tour of their home which showed off their personal possessions.
Ackerman and Yaselli would both allegedly trawl through online home sale listings for their next victims.
The enticing listing drew the attention of Ackerman, who jumped over their backyard fence and hoisted himself onto the roof and snuck into the master bedroom – which he had unlocked earlier during the 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 ;)’
Also among the stolen items were jewelry, handbags and Hodges’ Rolexes, with the couple losing in total of around $215,000 of valuables.
Hutton’s case was key to tracking down Ackerman, after she found fingerprints and shoeprints that cops later used to zero in on the suspect.
Real estate agent Jason Yaselli (right) allegedly teamed up with ‘slick’ Benjamin Ackerman to mastermind the multi-milion dollar plot to target celebrity homes and pilfer luxury items
Former Vanity Fair editor Punch Hutton, whose home was targeted in December 2017, pictured congratulating Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Jeff Stodel during sentencing
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
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
Ackerman left residents of the ritzy community terrified, with musician Lampert’s luxury three-bedroom Sunset Strip home also hit after it was put on the market for $3.35 million.
Similarly to Hutton, Ackerman found the listing online, but returned to the home and stole items on more than one occasion.
Ackerman was known as a skilled thief, and his victims often did not realize they had been targeted until they later found valuables missing.
Paradigm Talent Agency boss Michael Gores and Logitechs entertainment and talents boss Linna Stalberg were also left out of pocket by the devious thieves.
The thief’s skillset also saw him able to disarm surveillance videos and cameras with malfunctioning settings.
‘Cameras would simply go black until several hours after the burglary occurred,’ Timmons said.
Twelve LAPD officers raided his home in September 2018, and discovered a 15-camera indoor-outdoor surveillance system.
Designer clothing and handbags were found organized by brand, including labels such as Balenciaga, Chanel, Fendi, Givenchy, Hermès and Louis Vuitton.
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.
Ackerman stole expensive artwork, designer clothing, bags and luxury jewelry and watches from the celebrities homes, including a number of expensive artworks
He also took a standing bass from an elderly couple who had been longstanding family friends with his parents and asked him to move their mail
Rabbi Karen Fox gives a victim impact speech at Ackerman’s sentencing hearing
Rabbi Karen Fox was also among those to give a victim impact statement at Ackerman’s hearing, after her home was hit in the summer of 2017.
The thief was notably the son of their close family friend, before he stole a number of high-priced items from her including a family heirloom partially sold generations ago to help her family flee the Nazis.
Ackerman had previously attended Shabbat and Passover dinners with his family at the property, so was familiar with the layout. When he stole from the elderly couple, he had been asked by them to watch their property while they flew to New York to meet their new-born grandchild.
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.
When he struck, Ackerman texted Yaselli to brag that the couple had ‘left their safe unlocked’, before adding ‘I’m inside, going through with it’.
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’.
Dorit and Paul Kemsley were among of the hardest hit by the burglaries, and had items worth at least $2.5million stolen from their Beverly Hills mansion while they were away
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
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
The victims who lost the most in the raids are believed to be Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Dorit Kemsley and her husband Paul.
The couple were rolled while they were away from their sprawling $12.5 million mansion, with Ackerman taking home artwork, jewelry, a large and expensive wine collection, wallets and handbags worth more than $2.5million.
Officers recovered more than 150 items, including 43 purses and handbags, 30 bracelets, 25 necklaces, and a Social Security card.
They also found framed photos, of Fay Dunaway, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Clint Eastwood by Terry O’Neill.
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.