Saturday, September 27, 2014

How career con man James Peter Sabatino fleeced Miami-Dade taxpayers for a quarter-million dollars...all while sitting in jail

James Peter Sabatino.
(Miami-Dade Corrections photo)

Here's a lesson for all you cub reporters out there: Always answer the phone...especially when a jail inmate is calling.

Miami Herald food editor Evan Benn recently took a call from Miami-Dade's Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. On the other end was James Peter Sabatino.

Sabatino, a career con man, has been cooling his heels in the lock-up after being arrested a year ago on a laundry list of charges ranging from having sex with a minor, to fraud and grand theft.

But all that time in stir apparently hasn't dulled Sabatino's senses when it comes to spotting an easy "mark."

In a story just posted on the Herald's website, Benn writes:
A lot of things are crooked about Jimmy Sabatino, but a lazy eye is no longer one of them.

The career con man — Sabatino, 37, has spent all but a few weeks of his adult life behind bars for running scams from Miami to London — claims his latest caper came at the expense of Miami-Dade County taxpayers.

Sabatino, while in Miami-Dade Corrections custody, underwent surgery Aug. 28 at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute to repair a lazy right eye that has plagued him since his youth.

“It’s not lazy no more,” Sabatino said in a phone call to the Miami Herald from Miami-Dade’s Turner Guilford Knight jail.

Sabatino, who is set to be sentenced Tuesday on theft and fraud charges from last year, recounts with amusement and disbelief how he talked his way into the operating room for what he considers a cosmetic procedure.

“I kept saying I was having these headaches, and how can we make them stop?” Sabatino said of his visits to the Corrections Health Services clinic. “Next thing I know, they approved the surgery.”

Evan Benn. 
So how does a food editor get a scoop like this?

Turns out that before being named the Herald's food editor earlier this year, Benn covered the story of Sabatino's arrest last September.

In an email today Benn told me that Sabatino called him from jail to let him know about his sentencing set for next Tuesday, and during the conversation he dropped the bombshell about the surgery.

"Too good of a story to pass up," Benn said, "I put out two food sections and wrote a 1A Sunday news story. Great week in Miami journalism!"

Click here to read Benn's complete story.

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