Miami’s most incorrigible con man, Jimmy Sabatino, pretended to be a music mogul while he stayed in swank beachfront hotels and ordered champagne with room service.
After he got caught for stiffing them, Sabatino started serving time in the downtown Miami federal detention center, where he cooked up another multimillion-dollar scam.
Last year, Sabatino paid off a prison guard to bring him a handful of Apple iPhones so he could dial up luxury retailers such as Jimmy Choo, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels and dupe them into loaning out fancy jewels, watches and handbags. He lied to the retailers that their goods would be placed in music videos and film productions shot in Miami — instead they were fenced.
Sabatino got more than smart phones from the correctional officer: Using some of the illicit profits, guard Michael Mazar also bought and delivered eyeglasses, headphones and fast food to Sabatino’s cell at the Federal Detention Center-Miami.
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On Tuesday, Mazar, 39, pleaded guilty to a mail and wire fraud conspiracy for his supporting role in Sabatino’s $10 million racket and now faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing hearing on May 30 before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. His defense attorney, Greg Chonillo, declined to comment.
A pair of South Florida collaborators — one already arrested, Anthony Collado, aka “White Boy,” and the other on the lam, Job Dolce, aka “Cee” — are accused of plotting with Mazar to help Sabatino peddle the luxury items at pawn shops and jewelry stores in the Miami area and Atlanta.
Sabatino, 40, a perennial criminal, was sentenced in November to 20 years in prison for his leading role in the fraud scheme. This spring, he will finally be transferred from FDC-Miami to the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., according to his defense lawyers.
“He’s at peace, and he’s all alone,” said Miami attorney Joseph Rosenbaum, who handled Sabatino’s defense with lawyer Kimberly Acevedo. “He’s going to a place he knows, where he can’t get into trouble.”
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.
While Sabatino was stuck at FDC-Miami last year, he directed Mazar, Collado and Dolce to travel to Atlanta to sell several pieces of jewelry worth more than $3 million, according to an indictment filed against the threesome in January. They stayed at the upscale W Hotel, where Mazar was tasked with guarding a hotel safe filled with cash from the scam, the indictment said.
Mazar also stored cash, jewelry and other retail items at his home. Sabatino kept some of the profits for himself, but gave a piece to an associate of the Gambino organized crime family, according to federal prosecutor Christopher Browne.
Mazar, who worked as a correctional officer at FDC-Miami from July 2009 to April 2017, was key to the scheme because he supplied Sabatino with the smart phones. The way it worked was simple: Sabatino, using a fake name, contacted luxury 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 that 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 not only to Mazar, Collado and Dolce but to others, including: Valerie Kay Hunt, formerly of Davie, and Denise Siksha Lewis, formerly of North Lauderdale. Also helping Sabatino: FDC-Miami inmate George Duquen, formerly of Davie.
Those three co-defendants already pleaded guilty, cooperated with the feds and were given prison time. At his sentencing hearing, Sabatino called them all “rats.”