Con Kid

Jimmy Sabatino, self-described child of the Mafia, displayed a prodigious talent for confidence games even as a teenager. If he hadn't threatened to kill President Clinton, he'd probably be scamming today.

Police eventually arrested Sabatino for the Super Bowl caper. He pleaded guilty in Broward County Circuit Court to three counts of dealing in stolen property, and two days later to an unrelated charge of fraud for acquiring $12,500 worth of pagers by again claiming to be Tommy Mottola's nephew. For both crimes he served two years in downtown Miami's federal detention center (FDC).

He's back at the FDC now, having admitted guilt two weeks ago to his most serious (and most bizarre) crime yet. From a prison in suburban London, England, where he was serving a short sentence for skipping out on a typically outlandish hotel bill, Sabatino telephoned the White House and threatened to kill either President Bill Clinton or his brother, Roger. He also repeatedly called the FBI in Miami and threatened to kill two federal prosecutors, a federal judge, and -- for good measure -- to blow up the federal courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. In several calls he left his full name and date of birth.

As part of a plea agreement, charges arising from the Clinton threats were dropped. But Sabatino awaits sentencing for threatening to kill the prosecutors and the judge; he faces a minimum of four years in prison. He could spend even longer behind bars as a result of two more unrelated charges: violating probation and assaulting a prison guard, a case scheduled for court next week. Outstanding warrants await him in Atlanta, New York City, and who knows where else. "He thinks he's smarter than everybody in the world, and truthfully he is," says Max, the security consultant. "I guess he makes mistakes, too. I think he just went a little bit overboard here."

Need 262? "Dolphins president" Sabatino swiped a treasure-trove of tickets to Super Bowl XXIX
Need 262? "Dolphins president" Sabatino swiped a treasure-trove of tickets to Super Bowl XXIX
All in The Family: Sporting his Puff Daddy backstage pass, Sabatino lounges large in his limo
All in The Family: Sporting his Puff Daddy backstage pass, Sabatino lounges large in his limo

Jimmy Sabatino declined a formal interview for this story, a fact that surprises almost everyone who knows him. "He loves attention," says Max. "I would think he'd love to talk." Actually Sabatino originally agreed to an interview, then changed his mind. "All he told me is that his father said he would kill him if he talked," says FDC spokesman Erwin Meinberg.

While Sabatino rejected an interview request, and though he refused to allow his picture to be taken in jail, he did contact New Times through a person who identified himself only as Sabatino's paralegal. "Yeah, he just wants to know when the story is coming out," said the paralegal over the phone. "He also wants to know what pictures of him you plan to use. And he said to say that if you're gonna use a drawing of him, he really, really doesn't want you to use a cartoon. He doesn't want to look funny, okay? And he doesn't want any stupid headlines either."

Obviously Sabatino craves attention. One of the many ways his craving manifests itself occurred on April 9, 1995. A 21-year-old woman named Tashanda Elliot told a Boca Raton police officer that her boyfriend, Jimmy Sabatino, "hit her over the past few days and held her against her will" at a Marriott Residence Inn. Police arrested Sabatino for false imprisonment and on an outstanding warrant from the Sony pagers theft. As he was being transported to the Boca Raton Police Department, he asked an officer if he recognized him from the newspapers.

"Sabatino then told me that he was an equal partner in the theft of the Super Bowl tickets that occurred with Federal Express," wrote Ofcr. John Wagner. "Sabatino told me that he didn't commit the theft but the person who did steal them approached Sabatino for the resale of the stolen tickets for which Sabatino was a willing participant. Sabatino further stated that he did not make the amount of money that the newspaper reported, $250,000."

Four months later Sabatino filed a missing-person report stating Tashanda Elliot had been gone for a day and a half. Eventually he found her at a friend's house in Pompano Beach. In anger he broke down the front door to find Elliot hiding in a bedroom. Sabatino was charged with domestic violence, though he was not convicted. In court, and while the prosecutor repeatedly reminded her she was under oath, Elliot changed her story, saying the arrest was all a mistake, that Sabatino didn't shake her or beat her as she had previously claimed.

His current girlfriend lives in Houston, Texas, near the campus of Rice University. Sometimes she telephones reporters who have written or who are currently writing stories about Sabatino. She gives her name only as Shanita. "He's a good guy to me," Shanita says. "Everybody doesn't really know him like I know him. He's a loving and sweet person. He's good with kids." She says they've been seeing each other for most of the past three years, even though he's been in jail for most of the past two. A baby's cry can be heard in the background. Is Jimmy the father? "I can't give out any information about that to you," she says with a laugh. "You're trying to get me killed, right?"

Sabatino was born in Brooklyn, raised on Staten Island. He dropped out of Staten Island High to run one of the family's produce businesses. According to a court-ordered psychological evaluation conducted earlier this year, his "mother was estranged from the family for a number of years before she died of cancer."

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