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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Alleged celeb home burglar posed as resi agent, buyer at open house events: Police

LAPD recovered millions of dollars worth of goods stolen from celebs
January 02, 2019 05:00PM

Usher’s home was burglarized during an open house event (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

For agents listing multimillion-dollar homes, open house events  — with their elaborate parties, street closures and free-flowing alcohol  — can be a scary leap of faith.

A recent discovery from the Los Angeles Police has shown just how dangerous the open nature of the events can be in the age of online real estate platforms.

L.A. Police detectives say that a man tied to several celebrity burglaries in the Hollywood Hills used open house events to target homes and celebrities, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Benjamin Ackerman would pose as an interested buyer or licensed Realtor, writing down his middle name “Eitan” on the open house guest books, according to Commander Cory Palka, head of the LAPD Hollywood division, who spoke at press conference Wednesday. Detectives began focusing on Ackerman once they discovered the pattern. They arrested him in September.

The LAPD set up a website where victims can claim their belongings from the more than 2,000 items of art, jewelry and designer goods police say they seized from Ackerman’s L.A.-area home and storage unit, KTLA reported.

Details about open house events are often readily available online on websites like Zillow or Trulia. Listing platforms are also constantly publishing high-resolution photos and detailed descriptions of residences, making them even more vulnerable to break-ins.

Ackerman is believed to have robbed at least 13 homes since early 2017 and stolen millions of dollars worth of artwork, wine, jewelry and other luxury items, which were recovered by the LAPD. Police said the 32-year-old has a criminal record and is known to resell art, KTLA reported.

Singers Usher and Adam Lambert, as well as a cast member from “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” were among those targeted.

Mauricio Umansky, co-founder of the Agency; and Kyle Richards, a “Real Housewives” cast member, had their Encino home broken into in December 2017, while they vacationed in Aspen.

In November, police also charged a crew of 13 men tied to a separate ring of celebrity break-ins that targeted Rihanna, music producer Chief Keef and Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, among others. The thieves used social media to figure out when the celebrities would be out of town, and tapped real estate mobile applications to learn more about the homes they were invading, according to the police. [LAT] — Natalie Hoberman