Longform

Hip-Hop Poseur Jimmy Sabatino Can't Stop Scamming — Even From Prison

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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."

Sabatino introduced Troop to a world of limos and Cristal that the youth had never known. As days gave way to weeks, the two became inseparable. Troop quit his cooking job, and Jimmy paid for some studio time. Every night was a fresh blur of clubs, South Beach hotel suites, and wads of hundreds that Sabatino seemingly pulled from the ether. (Sabatino almost aggressively declines to specify the source of the cash beyond saying, "There's just so much money in the music business.")

But as his affair with opulence deepened, so did a familiar fantasy. In late July, Sabatino suddenly announced that Roc Nation, the New York-based recording label behind Jay Z, had named him its "Executive Vice President." He updated his social-media profiles to reflect the abrupt hire. Then he created a fraudulent Roc Nation email address through godaddy.com and anointed himself the leader of its "Miami office."

On Facebook, he messaged random women in their early 20s, imploring them to hang out with him. "I'm telling you this is Roc Nation," he crooned at one. "We are on some shit here... Popping bottles and shit till 3-4. We got villas in one of the most exclusive hotels in South Beach. You staying the night? We'll come through in the limo and get you." This woman accepted his offer; most did not.

From Nimes, Stanley Belot was closely monitoring his friend's behavior. "I see you will never change," he wrote his friend at 2 a.m. on August 9. "You still running them scams on people and hotels. When you going to stop that bullshit? You could be doing some legitimate shit, but no, you're still up to your old tricks."

Sabatino again ignored him, plunging deeper into the lifestyle. He mimicked Jay Z's wardrobe and assumed what became the Sabatino uniform: Adidas jumpsuit, chains, a pinkie ring, bracelets, and a series of very austere expressions. Bedecked in such accoutrements, he arrived one night in September at the Delano Hotel in South Beach with Troop for a Method Man concert. "I made Method Man," Sabatino yelled at Troop as they pushed their way inside. "He wouldn't be anywhere without me."

When Sabatino approached the hip-hop star, there was indeed a moment of recognition between the two, Troop says, and for several minutes, the two discussed their past. Sabatino snapped several photographs of the encounter, which he quickly uploaded to Instagram and contends substantiate his prominence in hip-hop.

Reached for comment, Method Man denied he met the con man. "I don't know who you're talking about," he wrote in an email from his screen name, pinkyphatphat. Pressed on the point, Method Man assures, "I don't know that nigga, 100 percent."


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Terrence McCoy