After he filed the purported FBI documents, Sabatino picked up a phone. He called veteran Los Angeles Times reporter Chuck Phillips. The Pulitzer Prize winner had been researching Tupac's 1994 shooting, which ignited a bicoastal rap war, eventually culminating in unknown assailants gunning down Tupac in Las Vegas in 1996. Phillips was working on the definitive account of the saga.

Over the phone, Sabatino informed him of the FBI records, Phillips later explained in the Village Voice. The reporter was ecstatic. Sabatino's documents corroborated much of his independent research, which had hinged on anonymous interviews with one of Tupac's New York assailants, Dexter Isaac. "I did not know Sabatino, but soon came to trust the inmate," Phillips wrote.

He shouldn't have. The L.A. Times leaned heavily on Sabatino's documents in its explosive 2008 account of the rap war. Phillips fingered Sean Combs' pal James Rosemond, a felon, as having orchestrated the feud with Tupac.

It took Jimmy Sabatino only four months to work his way back to prison, scamming tony South Beach hotels like this one.
Courtesy of Baby T
It took Jimmy Sabatino only four months to work his way back to prison, scamming tony South Beach hotels like this one.
His most recent mug shot in a life full of them.
Miami-Dade Corrections
His most recent mug shot in a life full of them.

But the story that the Times expected to spark astonishment and awards instead spawned humiliation. Combs immediately called the story "beyond ridiculous." And it only got worse from there.

One week later, the Smoking Gun revealed Sabatino's typo-festooned records as frauds. They'd been written on a typewriter — and the FBI hadn't used typewriters for decades. In one of its most embarrassing episodes to date, the Times retracted its investigation, Phillips was laid off, and Sabatino was cooked.

Yet Sabatino denies to this day any subterfuge. The scammer claims he never contacted Phillips. "This was the one con I didn't do," he asserts. In a convoluted theory, he says James Rosemond had masterminded the fake documents and "set me up."

What is clear: Sabatino and Phillip's informant, Dexter Isaac, who later came out in support of the embattled reporter's investigation, shared the same Pennsylvania prison, a spokesperson tells New Times. What's more, inmates there have access to typewriters.

Nonetheless, Sabatino obsesses over the Smoking Gun takedown, disputing every detail, and doing his best to ignore the fact that his most indelible mark on the hip-hop industry isn't as kingmaker but as con man.

This past July, the light of a bright afternoon filtered inside a whitewashed room at Broward Health North. Inside, with his considerable girth spilling across the bed, Jimmy Sabatino was discovering Facebook, a novelty that delighted him no end. He'd been released from prison weeks before, but the transition from 14 years of incarceration to a new, technological world had left him confused and unsure. He'd tried out a job at his father's Boca Raton supermarket, Western Beef, hawking ads, but had quit within weeks. Around that time, he suffered another stroke. So now here he was, feet propped up at the hospital, chatting on Facebook.

"I had a relapse," he wrote on July 17 to his friend Stanley Belot. "But I will be OK."

"You need to lose some weight at your age," responded Belot, now living in Nimes, France, with his girlfriend and son. "Do whatever it takes, but do it quickly."

Sabatino, who granted New Times access to his Facebook page, changed subjects. He reminisced about a weekend of hookers and booze they shared at a Las Vegas hotel, enabled through one of his scams. "Do you remember?" Sabatino wrote. "How crazy was it?" He manically rattled off his sexual exploits, but Belot quickly lost interest. His son had just woken up from a nap, and he didn't have time to talk over a life he abandoned a decade before.

"I'm sad for him," Belot tells New Times now. "He's running around trying to be like a young cat, and I told him he's too old for that shit."

Ignoring the advice, Sabatino slowly melted into his old habits. At his dad's Fort Lauderdale condo, he trolled Facebook profiles until one day he came across a young rapper named Thomas Troop. Sabatino thought he had genuine talent. "One thing that's not a con is my stature in the music industry," Sabatino says. "I wanted to make a star out of Troop."

Sabatino set up a meeting. "Do you know who I am?" he asked Troop's girlfriend in a Facebook chat. "In the [hip-hop] industry, I'm a beast. I know everyone there is to know. I can walk into ANY major label based off respect. And I also put a lot of money behind my artists."

Days later, at exactly 6 p.m., a black stretch limousine rolled to a stop before a six-story apartment building on 183rd Street in Miami Gardens, and out stepped Sabatino in dark glasses, tan slacks, and a button-down. From a cramped apartment above, Troop peered down at the unusual man — "To me, he looked like a nerd," Troop says — and bounded down the steps. "Right out the bat, he embraces me like a friend I hadn't seen in years," Troop says. "That's what drew me in. In my family, we don't have close ties, and he called me 'little brother.' "

They slid into the limo and, several Grey Gooses later, arrived at the posh Fontainebleau hotel, where Sabatino regaled the young rapper with his acumen in the hip-hop industry. Troop was impressed. "I'd never met anyone like Sabatino," Troop says. "Not before and not since."

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frankd4 topcommenter

...........................................basically it's a story of the lack of SECURITY at these hotels who don't know who their guests are

Kimber Kirton
Kimber Kirton

You're giving this creep the attention he wants, bravo. He is not worth my time, especially seven pages worth of my time.