An 82-year-old man who authorities say used his age to deceive doormen and plunder upscale Manhattan high-rises, is behind bars after allegedly snatching more than $100,000 in designer jewelry from affluent New Yorkers this year.
Samuel Sabatino, who police have been tracking since 2014, was arrested on Aug. 31 following a series of lucrative heists on New York’s Upper East Side, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
Police have charged him with five counts of residential burglary — and are now working to connect him to roughly 10 other break-ins in the same Manhattan neighborhood, according to a New York Police Department spokesperson.
“This investigation has been going on for several years,” NYPD detective Kevin Gieras told the New York Post.
Gieras, a detective with the 19th Precinct, said he's been tracking Sabatino — described by authorities as an “old school crook — for half a decade.
“There’s countless videos that we’ve been going through,” he added. “It keeps getting better. There’s so much at our fingertips.”
In apartment surveillance footage of one of Sabatino’s alleged robberies obtained by Oxygen.com, an elderly man wearing a black coat or dress shirt nimbly strolls into a stranger’s empty bedroom. A sporty black baseball cap is pulled close to his eyes as he rummages through the suite’s dresser drawers. He appears to be whistling.
“He’s an older gentleman who enters these buildings,” Gieras said. “He’s able to get past these doormen by the way he looks and the way he acts.”
Police say Sabatino, a master of exploiting his grandfatherly appearance, hoodwinked doormen at a handful of Manhattan high-rises.
“They didn’t even look twice at this guy,” Gieras told the New York Daily News.
Sabatino, who police say preferred to strike on holiday weekends, is accused of carrying out robberies on Memorial Day, Labor Day — and even on his own birthday.
Sabatino, who turned 82 on July 4th, allegedly spent the long weekend pilfering $39,000 in various goods from one married couple’s apartment, earning him the nickname the “July 4th Burglar.” But police only learned after arresting Sabatino that the robberies coincided with his birthday. The nickname, they said, was apt, but pure coincidence.
“When [Sabatino] told me that was his birthday, I was like, ‘No way,’” Gieras said.
In May, Sabatino allegedly ransacked a residential building on East 79th Street, making off with more than $50,000 in “wedding rings, a diamond ring, and multiple high-end watches.” Sabatino also allegedly snuck into another suite in the same building the same weekend and absconded with a vacationing husband and wife’s luxury watches, including various pieces of gold and diamond jewelry, whose value also exceeded $50,000, prosecutors said. Police reportedly watched him leave the scene with a “black bag.”
When Sabatino found himself in sticky situations, police said, he was able to avoid detection by appearing lost. In one instance, a suspected robbery victim answered the door of his apartment on E. 68th Street to allegedly find Sabatino in his hallway. When the man answered, the 82-year-old reportedly feigned confusion, and responded, “I think I am on the wrong floor.”
Sabatino allegedly attempted a similar rouse at a 3rd Avenue high-rise. Security there said he attempted to breeze by the desk check-in to a bank of elevators, and when questioned, told staff: “I am here to see my cousin Suarez in 16F.”
But building security said no one named “Suarez” resided there.
“Maybe he lives in the other building. … I must have the wrong building,” Sabatino allegedly replied.
The Post reported that Sabatino allegedly made off with nearly half a million dollars in stolen possessions over the years, but Oxygen.com was unable to confirm this with police or prosecutors. Gieras, one of the NYPD’s lead investigators on the case, didn’t respond to interview requests.
Sabatino’s bail was set and he’s being held on a cash bond of $500,000. He’s been arraigned and his next court appearance is Sept. 6, according to prosecutors.
Renee Hill, Stabatino’s attorney, also didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
Sabatino, who has racked up two other burglary convictions over the decades, was charged with attempted burglary in the Bronx in 1977 and again for burglary in Westchester County in 1994, according to the New York State Department of Corrections.
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