Conman Jimmy Sabatino says he can’t keep himself from committing crimes — even when he’s locked up in prison.
Sabatino will serve his time in the notorious “Supermax” federal prison in Colorado and be banned from having any contact with anyone except his stepmother and his two attorneys. He asked for special restrictions that would prohibit him from having any kind of contact with other prisoners and from calling, exchanging letters or speaking to anyone else.
The judge sentenced him to the maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and recommended he be locked up essentially in solitary confinement at “Supermax.” She also imposed the special, and extremely unusual, limitations on his ability to communicate with the outside — or inside — world “until such time as the defendant demonstrates that his communications no longer pose any kind of threat.”
Sabatino, who is associated with the Gambino organized crime family, is also prohibited from communicating with any member or associate of the Mafia.
“I don’t apologize to nobody,” Sabatino, 41, told Senior U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard when she asked if he had anything to say before sentencing. “As far as the government is concerned, they allowed this case to happen … they should be embarrassed,” he said.
Sabatino, who has spent most of his life since age 19 in prison, persuaded two federal corrections officers at the detention center to provide him with a total of five cellphones, one Samsung and four iPhones. The officers lost their jobs but have not been criminally charged.
Sabatino then used the phones in a scam in which he duped luxury retailers into sending expensive jewelry, watches and other items to his associates. The retailers were told the items were on loan and would be featured in music videos and promotional videos that were being shot in Miami. The items were never returned and instead were sold and pawned by Sabatino’s allies, who sent some of the money to his prison commissary account. Some of the money went to the mob,while some went to the co-defendants, investigators said.
Sabatino, who ran the fraud with the Gambino family associates, another inmate, two women who lived in Broward County and some other helpers, obtained close to $10.4 million worth of items, as well as accommodation and other services from luxury hotels, according to his plea agreement.
Sabatino admitted he used the phones in his cell to call and send texts and emails posing as employees of Sony Music Entertainment and RocNation, which was founded by Jay Z. His associates hired limousines and stayed at luxury hotels in Fort Lauderdale, South Beach and Atlanta, according to court records. Sabatino was ordered to pay full restitution to more than a dozen businesses, including Van Cleef & Arpels jewelers, Piaget watches, Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik.
After Sabatino was caught, investigators said he threatened to kill some of the people that he suspected had cooperated against him. On Monday, he complained in court that the people who informed on him — he called them “all my rats” — were sentenced to less than half the amount of time he will serve in prison.
In one note that investigators found in his cell, Sabatino wrote instructions to one of the corrections officers who had helped him “to take certain steps to conceal evidence of the fraud, including an explicit command to move fraud proceeds out of the officer’s house. The defendant stated that he was ‘trying to clip’ a government witness’s family, and further directed the officer to ‘take care of’ government witnesses on the defendant’s behalf,” according to court records.
The “Supermax” facility in Florence, Colorado where he will be held houses the most notorious federal inmates, including the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and dozens of other high-profile inmates convicted of international and domestic terrorism and other serious crimes.
Sabatino, who grew up in Staten Island, New York, spent a lot of time in South Florida. His stepmother, with whom he is allowed to communicate, lives in Broward County.
His criminal history dates back to the 1990s when he called the FBI from an English prison and threatened to kill then-President Bill Clinton. He was sent back to the U.S. to face that charge and operated several other scams.
Just a few years ago, he underwent surgery to fix his “lazy eye” at taxpayer expense after managing to convince Miami-Dade corrections officials that he had suffered a stroke.
His latest crimes were committed after he was sent back to the Federal Detention Center in 2014 to face allegations he had violated the terms of his supervised release by committing other crimes.
Sabatino’s attorneys, Joe Rosenbaum and Kimberly Acevedo, said Sabatino has told them he wants to change his criminal ways but has been unable to do so.
“He can’t control himself,” Rosenbaum told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “He said he does it because it’s fun, because he can do it, because he beat the system.”
Sabatino hopes his charm and intellectual brilliance won’t work on guards at the Colorado prison, they said.
“He’s going to sit in a cell, alone, with a television,” Rosenbaum told the Sun Sentinel. “He can have reading materials but he’ll be sitting in Colorado for the next 20 years without ever seeing a mountain.”