The Great Pretender

Jimmy Sabatino scammed millions of dollars' worth of goods and services by claiming he was a Hollywood player. But the self-described Mafia kid played too rough when he threatened to kill President Clinton.

These weren't always victimless crimes. While in one of those Atlanta hotels, he told a representative of SkyTel Communications that he was a Warner Bros. executive and that he was contracting out all of the giant entertainment company's beeper business. The salesman rushed over 75 beepers worth $18,750. A second order of 130 more beepers was on the way when the fraud was discovered. The SkyTel salesman was fired on the spot, according to Max, who is familiar with the case.


When Sabatino checked out of Miami's federal detention center after serving his two years for the Super Bowl caper, he successfully transferred his ten-year probation from South Florida to New York. One day after the transfer, New York City police arrested him when he couldn't pay the nearly $55,000 tab he'd run up at his welcome-home bash at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square. Out on bail from that predicament, he took off for London (in violation of the terms of his probation) and checked into the posh Four Seasons.

He set up those accommodations in the usual way. According to sworn witness statements on file with British law-enforcement authorities, the hotel received a call on January 12, 1998, from an American claiming to be Mike Andrews, chairman of Paramount Pictures. Andrews said a James Sabatino would be staying at the hotel from January 15 through 19. Sabatino was to be afforded a suite and a full accounting, meaning that Paramount would pay for every service he used and everything he bought. The hotel balked at first, noting that they usually deal with Paramount's British division. "Andrews" called back to complain. After he filled out a credit application sent via fax, the reservation was accepted.

During the course of his four-day stay in the luxurious Park Suite, Sabatino inquired at the hotel shop about a Rolex watch worth approximately $40,000. He told a clerk he was working with Sony Recording Studios in London, preparing for a movie being made with Wesley Snipes and Sylvester Stallone. Sabatino asked about a diamond bracelet to go with the watch, an accessory that jacked up the price to more than $100,000. Two days later he called the gift store to say he'd take the watch and also a second platinum Rolex they had in stock. He tried to charge the purchase to his room, but the hotel refused. Thinking quickly on his feet, he said a colleague would be arriving from Paramount in two days with a company credit card and that he would pay for the watches then. Without settling the hotel bill, he took off for Japan.

"On Tuesday morning I received a phone call from Jean Forest, who is director of marketing at Four Seasons in Tokyo," recounted Kristien Deleersnijder in a sworn statement. Deleersnijder is sales and marketing director at the Four Seasons in London. "The text was, 'Do I know a James Sabatino?' I said, 'Yes, of Paramount Pictures.' She said, 'No, of Sony Music.'"

In Tokyo, Sabatino had apparently presented two credit cards to the hotel clerk, both of which were rejected by the hotel's computer. As a possible explanation for the rejection, Sabatino showed her the envelopes from two first-class airline tickets to Tokyo, which probably pushed his credit cards over their spending limits. The tickets, though, were in the name of "Phillips." When contacted by the hotel, Sony Music in Tokyo claimed not to know Sabatino.

Sabatino and a friend immediately flew back to London. Brazenly they tried again to stay at the Four Seasons. Prior to his arrival, Sabatino phoned the receptionist and told her he needed to conduct interviews for Billboard magazine and wanted to book 12 single-occupancy rooms. Hotel management, which was onto him by this time, processed the request. On January 22 police arrested Sabatino at the hotel. He was charged with two counts of obtaining services by deception involving the Four Seasons and the Athenaeum hotels in London, and one count of obtaining property by deception for the Rolex watches he attempted to "purchase."


"Prison life in England was difficult for Mr. Sabatino," states the court-ordered psychological evaluation. "He was away from his cohorts and among individuals who did not know of his peculiar background. He was also labeled a 'Yankee' although his identity, up to then, was that of an Italian-American. The only food he had access to was not appetizing to him, and in addition he was housed in a 'dungeon' with inmates who were predominantly members of the Irish Republican Army.

"Mr. Sabatino placed all of his hopes in being granted bail and returning home to America where the system made sense to him. However, the judge refused to grant him bail allegedly as a result of his intimate ties to the Mafia. The defendant admitted reacting strongly to this decision ('I went ballistic.') in large measure because he did not think this had been a fair decision. Mr. Sabatino promptly placed blame for his legal tribulations on Mr. Jeffrey Kay and Mr. Paul Schwartz, both Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Fort Lauderdale area."

This is how Jimmy Sabatino goes ballistic, according to a sworn affidavit from Charles O'Neal, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Miami:

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