Pop singers celebrities San Diego natives
Adam Lambert, left, with Jimmy Fallon, in an appearance on “The Tonight Show” earlier this year. Photo credit: Screen shot, The Tonight Show, via YouTube

A man pleaded no contest Monday to a series of burglaries that included break-ins at the homes of celebrities, including San Diego native Adam Lambert and a former San Diego Charger.

Gary Jay Kaufman, the attorney for Benjamin Eitan Ackerman of Beverly Hills, said his client “has accepted responsibility for what he did.”

Yet, Kaufman said, Ackerman, 37, is “contesting and proceeding to trial on the charges that he is innocent of,” referring to the three remaining burglary charges.

Ackerman told Superior Court Judge Mark S. Arnold that he understood the charges to which he pleaded could carry a maximum of about 45 years behind bars and that he wanted to move forward.

The plea involves 11 counts of residential burglary, 28 counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, along with an admission of a white-collar crime enhancement.

Pop star Usher was also one of the celebrity victims in the case.

The burglary charges include break-ins at the home of Lambert, who grew up in Rancho Penasquitos and now performs with the rock band Queen, on Dec. 1, 2017 – and again a day later.

The other cases: a burglary at Usher’s home on March 20, 2018 and one on June 28, 2018 at the home of reality TV personalities Paul and Dorit Kemsley.

Ackerman is awaiting trial on three other burglary counts, including one stemming from a March 2017 break-in at San Diego Charger Shaun Phillips’ home.

Ackerman remains free on bond and is undergoing electronic monitoring while awaiting trial.

Jason Emil Yaselli, who was charged along with Ackerman in 2019, pleaded guilty at an earlier court date to one count of residential burglary and two counts of money laundering and admitted a white-collar crime enhancement. Yaselli, 36, is awaiting sentencing.

“Ackerman would pose as either an interested buyer in purchasing the property or he would pose as a real estate broker wanting to show the property,” Los Angeles police Capt. Cory Palka said at a January 2019 news conference announcing Ackerman’s arrest.

The LAPD’s Commercial Crimes Unit and Hollywood detectives ultimately would identify 13 separate burglary victims based on evidence recovered from a locker and storage unit and Ackerman’s residence.

LAPD Det. Jared Timmons estimated that the items were collectively worth “in the millions of dollars, multiple millions of dollars.”

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

Ackerman 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 said, describing him as “very sophisticated.”

– City News Service