Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
Crime and Courts

81-Year-Old ‘Holiday Bandit’ Gets 5 Years in Prison for Manhattan Apartment Break-ins

Samuel Sabatino evaded authorities for years as he burglarized luxury apartments in Manhattan while the residents were gone for the holidays

An 81-year-old Florida man known as the "Holiday Bandit" has been sentenced to five years in prison for breaking into luxury Manhattan homes during the holidays.

Authorities say Samuel Sabatino was behind numerous burglaries of doorman buildings on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side during Fourth of July, Memorial Day and other holidays for about a decade. He was caught on surveillance cameras at least once, stealing cash and jewels.

He pleaded guilty on Jan. 2 to attempted burglary, bail jumping, burglary, and tampering with evidence, the New York Daily News reported.

Sabatino would sneak past doormen and ride up elevators, pick apartment locks and then make his getaway. Police sources said Sabatino would drive up to the city from his home in Miami and pay cash tolls along his route, perhaps to avoid detection. They said he would then stay in a motel in New Jersey and cross the George Washington Bridge — again, paying cash —before picking a building to target.

An alert doorman at a building along 93rd Street noticed him as he tried to enter a few months ago and turned him away. The doorman then called police.

Police said they can link Sabatino to at least five burglaries in recent years, but they suspect he is behind many others. Statute of limitations is five years for larceny.

One victim from a July 4, 2015, burglary said at the time that she was shaken her apartment had been targeted.

"You start to shake. You start to feel like you have been violated," the woman said, asking her name not be disclosed.

She said she had more than $40,000 in jewelry stolen.

In another alleged instance, according to a criminal complaint, a man reported that $50,000 of valuables, including wedding rings, a diamond ring and high-end watches were missing from his apartment when he and his wife returned to their home on 79th Street after days away.

In 2019 alone, Sabatino stole over $100,000, successfully entering three separate apartments and attempting to enter additional apartments, according to Assistant District Attorney Rachel Polisner. However, it is believed Sabatino has stolen about $400,000 worth of items over the past five years.

Additionally, Polisner said that in an effort to destroy evidence, Sabatino tried to flush a watch down the toilet, which prosecutors believe belongs to an alleged burglary victim.

Polisner said that part of the reason why the investigation has been ongoing for years is largely because Sabatino was living under a new identity, the alias "James Clement," since he disappeared in 2001 after allegedly jumping bail from a previous burglary arrest.

Copyright NBC New York
Contact Us