Con Artist Who Used Broken Eyeglasses in Street Scam Gets Up to 7 Years

Physically imposing man admitted to earning a living by bumping into people, saying they broke his glasses and demanding reimbursement

Friday, Jan 7, 2011  |  Updated 10:00 AM EDT
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Physically imposing man cops to making a living off of bumping into people, telling them they broke his eyeglasses and demanding money.

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A street hustler who used bogus claims of broken eyeglasses to scam passers-by for a decade in tourist-laden parts of Manhattan was sentenced Thursday to as many as seven years in prison.

Naim Jabbar used some cheap spectacles and his imposing physique to deploy a "highly effective criminal strategy,'' Manhattan assistant district attorney Erin Tierney said: He'd bump into people, claim they'd broken his glasses -- which were already damaged -- and angrily demand to be paid for them. Intimidated victims gave up $40 to $160, she said.

Many were visitors to the city and were accosted near Times Square, Pennsylvania Station or other destinations in midtown Manhattan, prosecutors said.

With 17 previous misdemeanor convictions relating to the scam since 2000 and 22 other convictions, Jabbar has repeatedly been jailed, never for more than five months.

The 43-year-old was sentenced Thursday to a considerably stiffer sentence -- 3 to seven years in prison -- after a jury convicted him last month of a felony robbery charge stemming from an incident in July. It happened on West 58th Street, a block from the southern edge of Central Park.

Jabbar told jurors during his trial that he ran the eyeglasses scam, sometimes several times a day, said his lawyer, Natasha Lapiner-Giresi. But he argued it wasn't robbery, or forcible stealing.

"He admitted that this is how he earns his living. What he did deny is that he used threats of violence or engaged in violence to get money from people,'' she said.

But prosecutors said Jabbar instilled fear during the July encounter by balling his fist and looming over his victim with his 6-foot-2-inch, 270-pound frame. Although unhurt, the victim testified that he was very frightened, state Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman said. The man ultimately paid Jabbar $100.     

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