At civilization's edge, where exurbs meet Everglades, the sun had just fallen behind the trees around Metro West Detention Center when Jimmy Sabatino, wearing beige Crocs, clacked into a room full of windows. It was a slow, painful movement. The still-young man leaned upon a steel, four-pronged cane, and a faint wince came across his face. The elastic around his extra-large orange prison pants was too loose, and every few steps, he had to hitch them up.

"The easiest scam to pull off is tell someone something they already wanted to believe."

Despite Sabatino's remarkable track record of getting people to do whatever he wants, he is not a classically handsome man. A delicate, upturned nose anchors a melon-shaped face. His hair, what little is left, easily adopts a greasy shine, so he normally sweeps it back. His health vacillates from bad to worse. He's diabetic and seizure-ridden, and four strokes have left him with a pair of crooked brown eyes so lazy they're practically asleep.

"Who's this?" Sabatino barked at a reporter he'd been expecting for days, eyes swiveling wildly behind a pair of thick glasses. "Who's this?" Then, for a man as loquacious as Sabatino, he did something unexpected: He shut up. "Sign a piece of paper right now saying this is off the record or else I won't talk," he said. Once his demand was denied, he pulled up his pants, gripped the cane, and limped out of the room.

Jimmy Sabatino wanted to make Thomas Troop a hip-hop star.
Courtesy of Baby T
Jimmy Sabatino wanted to make Thomas Troop a hip-hop star.
Birthday cake and Cristal: Troop and his girlfriend, Nina Gee, celebrate the baller's life.
Courtesy of Baby T
Birthday cake and Cristal: Troop and his girlfriend, Nina Gee, celebrate the baller's life.

Jimmy Sabatino almost never turns down an opportunity to talk about Jimmy Sabatino. During hours of interviews with New Times over the telephone before this recent October meeting, Sabatino couldn't stop talking, even when family and legal counsel advised him to stop. For Sabatino, it's like a tic. If there's attention to be had, he has to have it.

Born in 1976, Sabatino grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst, raised by a loving father named Peter Sabatino. Beyond that, Sabatino is reluctant to give any more specifics. Did he have any siblings? "I was an only child," Sabatino says. "Just me and my father." Did he graduate high school? "I went to St. John's Villa before graduating from industry school." What's the word on his mom? "She's dead. I don't know anything about her. I never had a mother. My father was both my mother and father."

But those claims are all untrue, according to family members and federal documents. Sabatino, whose family has ties to organized crime in New York, never graduated high school, and he was not an only child.

He has a brother and a sister, and his mother was very much in the picture. At least at first. With dark Italian looks, Madeline Sabatino was enamored of show business. She did everything she could to get onto the big screen but was mired in "B movies," claimed Peter Sabatino. Her biggest role was a bit part in 1971 in The French Connection with Gene Hackman. "She had always had aspirations of being famous but had never really made it as far as she wanted," Peter Sabatino wrote in a letter to a New York federal judge in 2003 in support of his son. "When James was born she projected all of her dreams of fame and fortune onto her son."

She thrust Sabatino and his sister, Dawn, into the modeling business, where both thrived in the New York market. Sabatino spent every moment with his mother. But his father, whom federal documents describe as a onetime "liaison" to the Gambino crime family, was troubled by the work. One day, when Sabatino was 7, the mother and son "arrived home one day from a modeling shoot," recalled the senior Sabatino. "You could hear the kids playing baseball outside. James ran to the window and turned to me and asked, 'Daddy, what are those kids doing?' I was dumbfounded." The father realized his wife's aspirations for stardom were costing his son's childhood. He canceled the modeling shoots.

His wife took it hard. "She always had problems with alcoholism," Peter Sabatino wrote. "It worsened as James aged, and her career dwindled. After I put an end to James' modeling, she turned inward and withdrew from life and James." When he turned 11, James came home from school one day to find an empty house. His mother was gone; she left a note saying she wouldn't return. "Not only did she not return," his father lamented, "but she never called or wrote."

James internalized the abandonment, but it soon manifested itself in strange and disturbing ways. Weeks later, Peter Sabatino got a call from a concerned teacher of his son's. The boy had told her his mother had died in a car accident. "It was his way of resolving the matter," his father wrote. "And from that moment, James' antics would only escalate." He was expelled from 12 schools over the following years and tore through a smattering of baffled therapists. At age 12, he clocked 30 days at the Staten Island Psychiatric Facility and was later diagnosed with an impulse control disorder that, according to a psychological report, "was unlikely to change in the near future."

Talk with Sabatino, however, and he'll mention none of this. "Listen," he told New Times one afternoon on the phone, "I know where you're going with this. You want me to say that I've done everything for attention or something. But that's not how it was. I had a very happy childhood. I never had any problems with friends. I was always one of the most popular kids in my schools."

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25 comments
SoFla
SoFla

Didnt this kid get punked in jail in Passaic County and isnt his father "Fat Pete" a South Florida rat? These two are a joke

SoFla
SoFla

Waste of time writing about a jailhouse snitch who got punked in Passaic County jail and whos father is a South Florida rat !!! Good ole "fat pete" the familys a joke lets get real and erase these punks from the internet> 

tiredofthebull
tiredofthebull

this kid is from a family of rats his fathers in south florida 25 years a purported mafia big wig. A big rat in the 25 years hes been in south florida he's never had so much as a tap on the shoulder from any law enforcement agency despite being in the middle of many mob related events. Not to mention his right hand man Reynold Maragni who he ran around with for several years became a rat and not so much as a glance was thrown his way. Its a joke and its quite obvious the mans an informant

someguyontheinternet
someguyontheinternet

Interesting article. But I think Philips is misspelled, it only has one l. I also would like some insight as to why the whole thing happened. It occurs to me that If Henchman had a heads up on Philips story as Philips said in the Voice article,he gave Henchman in order to comment, then Henchman could have had the guys who did the hit type up a document with enough details that he had heard many times to set Philips. In this scenario, they'd have  up by having Sabatino call with Philips about documents. Sabatino had a credible history of providing documents for a lawsuit in which Sabatino was a plaintiff previously. Or Dexter and company could have written the document to shake down Henchman, who then saw it as an opportunity to screw up Philips story. (Philips gave Henchman a chance to comment on the article pre-publication) so he said in the Voice article. The Miami Times article is interesting but seems to be silent on the why of the whole thing - any thoughts?


frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..........................and all this matters how ?

actually one issue is lack of security at south beach hotels IF they do not know the real identity of their "guests" then how could ANY visitor feel secure in that hotel ?

how does someone order $100,000 of champagne without the hotel arranging and securing proper payment ? ...............where is management ? ........................where are the appropriate accounting and internal control functions ?....................maybe the whole place is a scam

otherwise, ANYONE can think these things up,  just that most don't want to waste away in prison for years just for a few party nights trying to prove to be someone they are not - who cares - a week from today this guy will be totally forgotten about

Francisco Soler
Francisco Soler

Your stories are so entertaining! You guys should partner up with Michael Bay for the long term....

jgcamp99
jgcamp99

"It took Jimmy Sabatino only four months to work his way back to prison, scamming tony South Beach hotels like this one."

LOL, not that I condone scamming per se, but South Beach hotels and other establishments hardly rate sympathy for what they charge anyone that becomes a victim in that community ?

WhyNotNow
WhyNotNow topcommenter

There is no 183 avenue. A typo, but please fix it. Show you care about the reader. Thank you.

adolfojherrera
adolfojherrera

Who the hell cares? This is just another slug from an infestation of slugs in this city. Line him up next to every member of the L.B.A., every member of the county commission, and Miami city commission, George Perez, and all the other con artists and crooks in this friggin swamp and light them on fire. Miami's only hope is a two mile high tsunami. Maybe whomever tries again may do it right and not let this third world shantytown proliferate.

Monica Matteo-Salinas
Monica Matteo-Salinas

I feel sorry for him, in a way. Probably blames himself for his mom's abandonment. Therapy would do him good.

Bill Cooke
Bill Cooke

...and now he's going back to prison for long time.

Hugh
Hugh

The reporter needs to learn his northwest Miami-Dade geography.  NW 183rd Avenue in the beginning of the article is about 90 blocks west of Miami Lakes if there was development out that far.  In the latter part of the article it states NW 183rd Street "in Miami Lakes" in another stupid mistake because it's at least 13 blocks north of the western side of Miami Lakes and 16 blocks north of the east side of Miami Lakes.  Carol City is closer to the area than Miami Lakes so one could call it "Carol City West."

Stan
Stan

This guy is a relative dope and managed to pull this off...imagine how much crap Wall Street and the gov't are getting away with.

DavidDennis
DavidDennis

Wow, New Times reporting is really first-class nowadays.  Great story!

Cathy
Cathy

Terry, great job. What a tale. 

Louis Wing
Louis Wing

WOW - that guy is good. He uses it for all the wrong reasons, but he's good.

chuck.strouse
chuck.strouse moderator editor

@Hugh We fixed and will correct in print. Sorry for the error.

Rational
Rational

AND WHOOO THE EFF CARES....JESUS......

HughJar
HughJar

@Rational   If the reporter makes stupid mistakes like where the kid lived then who knows how many more mistakes he made in the rest of article.  Maybe an a-hole like you doesn't care but some of us do.

 
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