Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, a 32-year-old Los Angeles man, said he was a Realtor or an interested home buyer. He always looked the part, too.
Ackerman would tour celebrities’ homes when they were for sale, setting up appointments and going to open houses, according to police. But he was really scouting: Later he would return to commit “very sophisticated” burglaries, police said.
“People didn’t challenge him when he walked into their houses … When he showed up, he was dressed to the nines,” Los Angeles Police Department Detective Jared Timmons said at a news conference Wednesday. “He was very slick.”
Usher, Adam Lambert, Jason DeRulo and other high-profile celebrities fell victim to Ackerman’s burglaries, police said. In another instance, Ackerman went after a family friend, Timmons said.
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Police said Ackerman stole property from at least 13 residences and possibly more from 2017 to 2018. Timmons suggested there may be a “crew” of others Ackerman worked with, adding that surveillance video from inside the homes was tampered with in some cases.
A search of Ackerman’s storage unit in September 2018 revealed the stolen goods, Timmons said. Following the search Ackerman was arrested, but he has been released on $1 million bond — and according to the district attorney’s office, he has not been formally charged in the case because the “investigation is ongoing,” the Daily Beast reports.
Police are now looking for the rightful owners of more than 2,000 high-end pieces of property Ackerman is accused of stealing — purses, fine wines, electronics, artwork, jewelry “and other very expensive items,” Commander Cory Palka, head of the department’s Hollywood division, said at the news conference.
Police created a website to catalog the thousands of stolen items. All told, the goods are worth “multiple millions of dollars,” Timmons estimated.
“As you can see, we have diamond necklaces. We have to see what type of diamonds they are,” Timmons said, explaining why it’s hard to pinpoint the value of what was stolen. “We have high-end artwork. Those need to be evaluated, appraised — see if they’ve been damaged by the suspect.”
Police said the string of burglaries should be a warning to home sellers.
“It doesn’t appear that anyone checked this person out,” Timmons said. “Challenge every person that comes in there. Ask for verification … in these cases it does not seem that any of that was done until after the fact.”
Police said they caught on to Ackerman after they realized he had signed in at a few open houses, and that he had been asking around about “some rare artwork.”
“It’s obvious he had no fear of being caught,” said Lieutenant Theodore Edwards, who helped investigate the case, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
During a September 2017 break-in at Jason DeRulo’s home, $300,000 in cash was taken, CBS LA reported at the time.
Police said Ackerman has a criminal past: Court records indicate burglary and theft convictions in Los Angeles three times in recent years, the Los Angeles Times reports.