Two Beverly Hills men, including a realtor, face 50 felony charges in connection with an alleged scheme to burglarize celebrities' homes in the Los Angeles area, primarily by taking advantage of real estate open houses, authorities said Thursday.
The string of burglaries targeted at least 14 homes between 2016 and 2018, including those of musicians Usher and Adam Lambert, as well as former professional football player Shaun Phillips, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a written statement.
Realtor Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, and Benjamin Eitan Ackerman are each charged with 32 counts of money laundering, 12 counts of residential burglary, two counts of burglary with a person present, two counts of identity theft, one count of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
"The charges include an allegation of taking more than $500,000 through fraud and embezzlement," according to the district attorney's office statement.
Prosecutors filed the case on Aug. 15, officials said. Ackerman was arrested the following day, and Yaselli was taken into custody Wednesday.
Ackerman pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday and was scheduled to return to Los Angeles County Superior Court for hearing on Oct. 3, authorities said. Yaselli was scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment hearing Friday.
Ackerman was previously arrested in connection with the same series of alleged burglaries in September, but was ultimately released without charges four days later, Los Angeles County booking records show.
Ackerman's attorney, Gary Kaufman of the Kaufman Law Group, said his client would be vindicated.
"The District Attorney's press release, by specifically naming Usher Raymond and Adam Lambert as alleged victims, only emphasizes what we have believed from day one, that this is a publicity driven prosecution," Kaufman said in a statement. "The People’s case is no better today than it was a year ago. Unlike a fine wine, this case does not get better with age. Mr. Ackerman is not just presumed to be innocent, he is in fact innocent.”
Ackerman posted bond on Tuesday and was released from custody pending legal proceedings, records show. Bail for Yaselli was set at $1.73 million.
Prosecutors allege that Yaselli "encouraged Ackerman to steal luxury items from 14 homes, sell them and use the proceeds to make payments on Yaselli's credit card, the district attorney's office statement said.
"In many instances, the pair allegedly identified the targets or committed the burglaries during open houses in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Brentwood and Hollywood Hills," according to the statement.
If convicted as charged, Yaselli and Ackerman could each face more than 31 years in state prison.