Longform

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

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The lies were catching up with Sabatino. He was juggling too many hotels simultaneously, staying up too many hours, putting on weight. One night this summer, he met an urbane, sleekly dressed woman named Ebony White at the nightclub Bamboo in South Beach.

Sabatino, in white unlaced tennis shoes, trotted out his normal opening. "Do you know who I am?" he asked. Then he brandished an iPhone 5 and told her to Google him.

"It says you're a con man," she remembers telling him.

"Don't believe everything you read," he confided.

She found him utterly transparent. "He's like a black cloud without the rain. He said he was some kind of manager at Roc Nation, but when I Googled him, there wasn't any affiliation with them." But she also found him charming. There was a vulnerability about him that evoked tenderness in her. She went back to his suite, where he told her his mother was dead, and they had sex. "I did all the work," she says. "But it wasn't bad. I hadn't had sex in four months."

He told her he loved her. But then he did something odd. He granted her access to his Facebook account, which clearly showed scorned women deriding Sabatino for saying he loved them — and then disappearing. What bizarre behavior, White thought. Why would he claim to love her, then give her information proving he's a fraud? It was like he wanted to get caught.

Around that same time, a petite manager at South Beach's SLS hotel, Nicole Ormeno, was also beginning to suspect that the strange guest who said he worked for Viacom wasn't everything he appeared. After spending four days at a suite, during which he consumed $16,000 worth of goods, the man had just requested ten more nights, so she went upstairs for a chat. The suite was vacant, she found, except for keys to a nearby Eden Roc suite as well as a pawn shop receipt.

Ormeno, according to a police report, called an Eden Roc manager who said the same thing had happened there, except the mysterious man had said he worked for Warner Bros. Soon, after sleuthing on Google, Ormeno realized her guest wasn't "James Sabat," as he claimed — but con man Jimmy Sabatino. She called police.

At 11 p.m. on September 27, Miami Beach police arrested Sabatino at the Hilton Bentley. Inside the hotel room was a 17-year-old girl. "The female stated she had been living with [Sabatino] for approximately three weeks," the report states. "During this time, [Sabatino] and the female juvenile became engaged in sexual conduct (fellatio) one time only." Miami Beach Police asked to search Sabatino's phone. The con man, who claims he didn't know the girl was only 17, did them one better: He forked over his password. Police found nude pictures of the girl on the phone. "He stated the female was a friend, and would neither admit nor deny any sexual activity," their report says.

Over five weeks, police found, Sabatino had snookered $150,000 worth of services at the South Beach Hilton — $100,000 of it on Champagne alone.

The next morning, Troop, who had been expecting to go shopping at Aventura Mall with Jimmy, called his new friend. A detective answered and told him what happened. The reality of Sabatino's true identity shattered Troop. He'd quit his job to roll with Jimmy, and now he had nothing. He went back to square one, hoping for discovery.

"U claimed we were family," he wrote Sabatino in a Facebook message. "U took an artist, lied to him, screamed Roc Nation with no ties and nothing but lies. U a nobody playing a somebody. U a fat, broke, white boy who wishes he had industry connects. How it feel to live your whole life being a fake?"

On Halloween morning, Jimmy Sabatino, hands cuffed, sighed as he settled into the defendant's chair in a Miami courtroom. For the moment, Sabatino didn't want to talk. He grimaced slightly when the state confirmed it wouldn't drop any of its allegations against him.

Given his past, if convicted of all three grand theft charges, Sabatino faces 80 years in prison and may well die there. The state hasn't filed formal charges against him involving the alleged sexual offense, and Sabatino doesn't think it will. As he sat listening to the judge drone, Sabatino liked the thought he may beat the sex-offense rap. The idea of crime — long stints in prison, even — doesn't trouble him. Prurience, however, does. Even liars and cheats, he professes, have their boundaries.

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Terrence McCoy