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Adam Lambert, Usher's homes targeted in Los Angeles celebrity burglary scam

Posted: 5:55 PM, Aug 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-22 20:55:19-04
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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two Beverly Hills men, including a Realtor, have been charged with burglarizing the homes of singers Usher and Adam Lambert and other residences by allegedly using open houses to facilitate the crimes, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Jason Emil Yaselli, a 32-year-old Realtor, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on 50 felony counts, including first-degree residential burglary, first-degree residential burglary with a person present, money laundering, identity theft, conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The charges include an allegation of taking more than $500,000 through fraud and embezzlement.

Yaselli, who was arrested Wednesday by Los Angeles police, was jailed in lieu of $1.73 million bail.

Co-defendant Benjamin Eitan Ackerman, 33, pleaded not guilty Monday to the same charges, which allege crimes between December 2016 and August 2018.

The criminal complaint alleges that Yaselli ``allowed defendant Ackerman to use his credit card with the understanding that defendant Ackerman would pay down the principal and interest from the proceeds of the sale of the luxury items taken from 14 inhabited dwellings'' and ``encouraged'' Ackerman to commit the burglaries.

The alleged victims of the burglaries included Usher, Lambert, reality TV personalities Paul and Dorit Kemsley and former professional football player Shaun Phillips.

In many instances, Yaselli and Ackerman allegedly identified the targets or committed the burglaries during open houses in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Brentwood and Hollywood Hills, according to Deputy District Attorney Stephen Morgan.

At a Jan. 2 news conference, Los Angeles police announced that more than 2,000 high-end items -- including art work, clothing, purses, jewelry and fine wine -- had been seized from a home and storage unit belonging to Ackerman.

``Ackerman would pose as either an interested buyer or in purchasing the property or he would pose as a real estate broker wanting to show the property,'' Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Cory Palka said at the news conference. ``With the assistance of the LAPD's Commercial Crimes Unit, Hollywood detectives were able to identify 13 separate burglary victims based on evidence recovered from the locker or storage unit and Ackerman's residence. We believe there may be additional victims based on the large volume of stolen property that was recovered and are asking the public's help in identifying additional victims, and most importantly, returning their property to them.''

LAPD Detective Jared Timmons estimated that the items are collectively worth ``in the millions of dollars, multiple millions of dollars.''

Investigators determined that Ackerman -- who has a criminal record -- had signed into open houses on several occasions and asked in one instance about acquiring rare art work, the detective said.

Ackerman -- who allegedly went after ``high-value targets'' -- showed up to the open houses while ``dressed to the nines'' and ``acted the part'' without being challenged to confirm his identity or where he was employed, according to the detective.

``He would tour open houses and he would come back later,'' Timmons told reporters. ``... This person is very sophisticated. In a lot of these cases, we see tampered surveillance videos. We're still looking into that. As we said, open houses usually were the main source of that. However, we do have one case where he targeted a family friend, so nobody's off the table.''

Ackerman was initially arrested last September by Los Angeles police, then arrested again on Aug. 16, one day after the criminal charges were filed.

He was subsequently released on a $1.2 million bond and is due back in court Oct. 3, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require him to stand trial.

Yaselli and Ackerman could face up to 31 years and eight months in prison if they are convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney's Office.