A real estate agent in Beverly Hills and another man are accused of stealing from celebrities in Southern California, sometimes during open-house viewings, according to prosecutors.
Agent Jason Emil Yaselli and right-hand man Benjamin Eitan Ackerman have been charged with seven criminal accounts, and are accused of stealing over $500,000 via fraud and embezzlement, the LA County district attorney’s office said.
The alleged victims include musicians Usher and Adam Lambert, plus “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” stars Paul and Dorit Kemsely, and former NFL player Shaun Philips, prosecutors confirmed.
Ackerman was arrested of August 16 while Yaselli was apprehended on Wednesday 21.
Starting December 2016 to August 2018, prosecutors said Yaselli encouraged Ackerman to steal stuff from 14 homes and then auction them to make payments on Yaselli’s credit card.
In most scenarios, the men identified the targets or committed the theft during open-house viewings, prosecutors said. The crimes took place in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, West Hollywood, and Hollywood Hills.
Yaselli and Ackerman have been accused of first-degree residential burglary, money laundering, identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit theft.
32-year-old Yaselli pleaded not guilty on Friday and had a bail set at $1.73 million, while a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for October 3.
Ackerman, 33, also pleaded not guilty in front of the court on Monday and his bail was set at $1.2 million. He was taken into custody in connection with burglaries in 2018, but was released a few days later, according to CNN affiliate KTLA.
Ackerman’s attorney Gary Kaufman said in a statement that prosecutors are lacking a better probe against him now.
“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.
“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.”
If the men are convicted, the face a maximum jail term of 31 years in a state prison.