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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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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