A man who allegedly posed as a real estate agent and a homeowner in a bid to steal from celebrity homes has been arrested in Los Angeles.
Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, 32, was arrested last week on suspicion of theft in September after police found thousands of missing items worth more than a million dollars reported stolen from celebrity houses across Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills.
The Los Angeles Police Department announced that a search of Ackerman’s home and storage unit produced more than 2,000 stolen items, including expensive jewelry, rare art and fine wine. Among the 13 victims, popular entertainers such as Usher, Jason Derulo, Adam Lambert and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Dorit Kemsley were targeted, police said.
As part of the heist, Ackerman posed as a real estate agent, a homeowner and a potential buyer to gain entry into the homes.
“People didn’t challenge him when he walked into their houses. When he showed up, he was dressed to the nines,” LAPD Detective Jared Timmons told reporters on Wednesday. “He acted the part. He was very slick.”
The police have not yet tracked down the exact number of stolen items, but at least 13 victims — many of them famous — have been identified. The LAPD started a website featuring photos of items from Ackerman’s storage unit for potential owners to identify.
While the investigation has been ongoing since September, police only announced the arrest this week. Ackerman has been released on a $1 million bail but a court date has not yet been set.
Even though open houses always attract burglars and thieves, Ackerman’s strategy went beyond simple theft, investigators said.
“His work was very sophisticated and in a lot of these cases, we saw tampered surveillance videos,” Timmons said. “[Ackerman] seems to be fluent with computers and technology.”
A National Association of Realtors (NAR) spokesperson confirmed that Ackerman is not a certified Realtor and said that anyone who opens their home up to real estate professionals should first confirm their credentials through a simple online search.
“Homebuyers and sellers should do their homework before committing to work with a real estate professional, most of which they can accomplish through a simple internet search, a call to the agent’s brokerage or by requesting information from their state or local Realtor association,” the spokesperson told Inman in an email.