|James Peter Sabatino.|
(Miami-Dade Corrections photo)
A man, who in 1998, made threats "to kill President Clinton and his brother, Roger Clinton, decapitate a federal judge and two prosecutors, and blow up the federal courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale," has been arrested by Miami Beach police for scamming hotels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in services, including $100,000 worth of champagne during a five-week stay at the swank Hilton Bentley on Ocean Drive in South Beach.
Last Friday, Miami Beach detectives arrested 36-year-old James Peter Sabatino - who stands 5 ft. 6 inches tall and weighs 360 lbs. - charging him with a slew of crimes including organized fraud and engaging in sex with a minor.
Gabriel Castrillon, General Manager of the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables, said his staff called police last Friday, a few minutes after 36-year-old James Sabatino arrived at the hotel. Castrillon said Sabatino checked into the hotel at around 2 a.m. with friends and requested several rooms, including the presidential suite. "He was using these names of well-known corporations," said Castrillon.
Sabatino matched the description on a bulletin that the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association had sent out to hotels in the area.
When police arrived at the scene, they found Sabatino inside a room with a 17-year-old girl, who told police the two were having sex. "We contacted the police department, and they were here within 20 minutes," said Castrillon.
The Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables was not the only hotel that was targeted. Police said Sabatino was checking into South Florida hotels posing as a Sony and Viacom executive, staying for days and weeks. "This individual that was arrested, Mr. Sabatino, racked up a total of almost $250,000 in charges between the room, expenses, the room itself, bottles of Champagne, in the amount of $100,000 that he had ordered," said Miami Beach Police Sergeant Bobby Hernandez.
In one case, Miami Beach Police said Sabatino stayed at the Hilton Bentley Miami/South Beach on Ocean Drive for five weeks.
In 1999, the Miami Herald's Larry Lebowitz wrote this of Sabatino:
In 1995, at age 19, Sabatino was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution for two schemes that highlighted his aptitude for impersonation and fraud.
Sabatino, who dropped out of school in ninth grade but completed a high-school equivalency degree in prison, posed as executives with Blockbuster Entertainment and the Miami Dolphins front office to steal 262 tickets for Super Bowl 29 that were resold for up to $1,000 apiece. Sabatino claimed he was the nephew of Sony Music Corp. chairman Tommy Mottola while fraudulently obtaining 55 digital pagers and more than $12,000 in services from a Boca Raton firm.
In Sept., 1999, Sabatino was also the subject of a 5300 word Miami New Times story by Robert Andrew Powell.
The sheer gutsiness of Sabatino's exploits has won him fans in the most unlikely places. "I know I shouldn't say this, but I can't help it: I love the guy," allows Max, a security consultant to a prominent corporation Sabatino has repeatedly victimized. (Max is an alias.) "I can't help but respect what he's able to get away with. Even when he was seventeen he'd just walk into the Waldorf-Astoria with three or four or five or ten people, get them all rooms and room service for a week, and limousines. He'd have no credit card and would be dressed like a ghetto kid with the crotch of his jeans hanging down to the floor. He's incredible."
In 2000, Sabatino was sentenced to four years in federal prison for threats against federal prosecutor Paul Schwartz and assaulting a federal prison guard. According to the Sun-Sentinel, "prosecutors reached a deal with Sabatino ... allowing him to plead guilty to threatening Schwartz and agreeing to drop charges on the rest of the threats."
In 2008, Sabatino was the subject of a lengthy post on the The Smoking Gun:
The [Los Angeles] Times appears to have been hoaxed by an imprisoned con man and accomplished document forger, an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries, conducted business with Combs, Shakur, Busta Rhymes, and The Notorious B.I.G., and even served as Combs's trusted emissary to Death Row Records boss Marion "Suge" Knight during the outset of hostilities in the bloody East Coast-West Coast rap feud.
The con man, James Sabatino, 31, has long sought to insinuate himself, after the fact, in a series of important hip-hop events, from Shakur's shooting to the murder of The Notorious B.I.G.. In fact, however, Sabatino was little more than a rap devotee, a wildly impulsive, overweight white kid from Florida whose own father once described him in a letter to a federal judge as "a disturbed young man who needed attention like a drug."
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate locator, Sabatino was released from prison last May.