“You would never expect a man his age to be doing this.”
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Police have arrested an unlikely suspect in an alleged 5-year-long string of thefts that tallied nearly a half-million in stolen jewelry in the New York City area.
Fox 4 KC reported that Samuel Sabatino, variously reported as either 81 or 82-years-old, was arrested on Saturday and charged with 11 counts of burglary in an odd conclusion to a 5-year-old case.
Over the half-decade of thefts, police say that Sabatino got away with taking jewelry, watches and other small valuables from luxury apartments in The Big Apple. Those thefts totaled more than $400,000, according to police.
Investigators say that Sabatino’s innocent-looking disguise and calm demeanor helped him pull of the years of thefts.
It was his “unassuming demeanor, simple clothes, and large glasses” that kept him out of sight, sources say.
Police say that Sabatino would repeatedly drive from his home in Florida up to New York City during summer holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day weekend.
Once in the city, the suspect would allegedly enter a luxury apartment building. Police say his appearance was key in slipping past doormen without being stopped or hassled.
After he made entrance into the buildings, investigators say that he would walk around until he found an apartment that had mail and packages piling up outside, indicating that the tenant or homeowner was out of town.
Once he had his target in mind, police say that Sabatino would try doors until he found one that was unlocked. Then he’d slip inside, making off with whatever small valuables and trinkets that he could find.
We know what you’re thinking.
But, what if someone who lived inside the building caught him while he was trying to break into an apartment?
His age came into play, police say. If he was ever confronted in a situation like that, he would just pretend to have confused which floor he was on.
And no one suspected a thing.
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Eventually the senior scam artist got caught on camera. The New York Post published a video released by the NYPD from 2015, appearing to show Sabatino digging his way through drawers at an East 86th Street apartment.
Victims have reported missing cash, jewelry, wedding rings and more.
New York City Detective Kevin Gieras commented on the string of thefts.
“Things that were important to them. Heirlooms that were passed down from generation to generation. Things you can’t get back,” he said.
Coincidentally, his disguise wasn’t enough to get him through another burglary attempt this weekend. Police say they were tipped off to Sabatino’s suspicious behavior when a doorman in the city called the cops.
He was arrested shortly after, and bail was set at $250,000.
NBC News reported that Sabatino avoided detection by the police for years by staying in New Jersey instead of New York and reportedly using cash at tolls to avoid a paper trail during the times of his burglary attempts.
He’s been referred to as the “Holiday Bandit”. Authorities say that with the 5-year statute of limitations for burglary, they can tie him to at least five incidents, but suspect him of many more.
Investigators say that Sabatino might not have just targeted the wealthy in New York, but he’s also suspected of potential burglaries in Pennsylvania, California and Arizona.
If convicted on all counts, Sabatino could face a sentence of 15 years in prison.
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