South Florida

Could it be — at last — the end of the line for Miami’s most incorrigible con artist?

Jimmy Sabatino, a serial con man, poses as a music industry executive during one of his many capers.
Jimmy Sabatino, a serial con man, poses as a music industry executive during one of his many capers.

Goodbye, Jimmy Sabatino.

Federal prison officials in Miami, who consider the legendary con man a royal pain in the you-know-what, were more than happy to see that Sabatino will soon be sent off to a maximum security facility in Colorado. It’s a notorious Supermax prison for murderers and terrorists held in isolation.

Sabatino, a wiseguy wannabe from New York, was sentenced Monday to a maximum 20 years in prison, showing no remorse for his $10 million rip-off scheme from behind bars in Miami — right up until the end.

“I don’t apologize to nobody,” Sabatino told U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard, after blaming the U.S. government and other defendants who snitched on him in the FBI investigation.

“They [the government] allowed this to happen,” he said. “They should be ashamed of themselves. ... All of this is about rats.”

Sabatino, a 40-year-old perennial inmate, pleaded guilty in September to a racketeering charge that featured a signature bit of audacity: Using cellphones purchased from federal corrections officers, he tricked luxury retailers such as Jimmy Choo, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels into loaning out fancy jewels, watches and handbags for placement in music videos shot in Miami.

Of course, Sabatino fenced the high-end goods, valued at millions of dollars, through South Florida pawn shops with the help of another inmate at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and two other outsiders. He kept some of the illicit profits for himself, but gave a piece to an associate of the Gambino organized crime family.

Jimmy Sabatino, 40, pleaded guilty to running a racketeering operation using cellphones from within a Miami jail on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017.

He also directed a co-conspirator “to harm or kill” others involved in his jailhouse caper, according to his plea agreement.

Sabatino (2)
Jimmy Sabatino has spent his entire adult life engineering cons — and getting caught.

As part of the deal, the feds also imposed a “gag order” on Sabatino to keep him from contacting other prisoners and outsiders while he’s incarcerated. The defendant actually requested such treatment to prevent him from orchestrating another con from behind bars.

“He can’t help himself,” his defense attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum, told the Miami Herald. The order will still allow Sabatino to talk to him, his co-counsel, Kimberly Acevedo, and the defendant’s stepmother.

The restrictions, approved by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will remain in place until Sabatino has “demonstrated his communications no longer posed a threat,” according to court papers.

The Justice Department has grown weary of Sabatino, who continued his racket from jail even after he was indicted on fraud charges last year. Rosenbaum told the judge at his plea hearing in September that Sabatino is being kept in a special housing unit by himself at the Federal Detention Center because authorities “are worried about him doing this again.”

Sabatino is a legendary Miami con artist whose past crimes have included posing as a music executive while running up hundreds of thousands in unpaid tabs at Miami resorts and pretending to be an entertainment mogul to acquire hundreds of free Super Bowl tickets.

For years, the Staten Island native has captivated connoisseurs of flim-flam artistry with his brazen crimes. These have included calling the FBI from a prison cell in England and threatening to kill then-President Bill Clinton, which got him brought back to the United States, and running a scam from prison several years later that defrauded the phone provider Nextel out of about $3 million.

He even managed to convince Miami-Dade corrections officials three years ago to pay to repair a lazy right eye after falsely complaining he’d suffered a stroke and was experiencing severe headaches.

His latest scheme began in the fall of 2014: Through emails and phone calls, the pudgy prisoner posed over the phone as a Sony executive and reached out to about 20 luxury store managers to convince them to turn over their jewelry, watches and other goods to be displayed in splashy music videos, according to federal prosecutor Christopher Browne.

Sabatino’s real plan, however, was to enlist a fellow inmate and others on the street to redirect the expensive items and take them to pawn shops, according to a statement filed with his plea agreement.

Sabatino, who is serving time at the Miami federal facility for probation violations and defrauding the luxury hotels, was indicted last year along with a fellow inmate and two others on racketeering, wire fraud and mail fraud charges. (The additional counts were dismissed Monday.)

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Jimmy Sabatino, during one of his many court hearings. Raul Dopico

His most recent case was launched from the Federal Detention Center in Miami, after Sabatino and the others agreed to target the stores for watches, jewelry and handbags — some in the exclusive Bal Harbour Shops. The way it worked was simple: Sabatino, using a fake name, contacted brand representatives and store managers through a barrage of emails, text messages and phone calls.

In some cases, he posed as an executive for RocNation, the entertainment firm founded by rapper Jay Z and whose clients have included Shakira, Rihanna and Big Sean.

In each case, Sabatino claimed if the stores sent their wares to his business partners, the jewelry and handbags would be displayed in music videos and advertising materials produced in Miami for wide distribution.

Sabatino, who went by “James Prolima,” told the store managers to ship the items to co-defendants Valerie Kay Hunt, 54, of Davie, and Denise Siksha Lewis, 36, of North Lauderdale. Also helping Sabatino: inmate George Duquen, 54, of Davie. From behind bars, Sabatino and Duquen told the two women to haul the wares to pawn shops to be sold.

Sabatino’s co-defendants already pleaded guilty, cooperated with the feds and were given prison time.

So far, the corrections officers who sold Sabatino the cellphones for his jailhouse racket have not been charged.

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