New Jersey

81-Year-Old ‘Holiday Bandit' Busted in Series of Luxury Manhattan Apartment Break-ins

Elderly suspect hit luxury apartments in doorman buildings over holidays, authorities say

What to Know

  • The alleged "Holiday Bandit" burglarizing luxury apartments in Manhattan for the last decade has been arrested, authorities and sources say
  • Samuel Sabatino, an 81-year-old from Florida, was taken into custody over the Labor Day weekend after another alleged break-in attempt
  • Police said they can link Sabatino to at least five burglaries in recent years, but they suspect he is behind many others

An 81-year-old Florida man has been arrested for being the so-called "Holiday Bandit" who has broken into luxury Manhattan homes for the last 10 years on holidays, while many residents have been away, authorities and sources say.

Samuel Sabatino was taken into custody on the Upper West Side over the Labor Day weekend. Law enforcement officials said he is believed to be behind numerous burglaries of doorman buildings on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side over the last decade. Surveillance cameras over the years show the "Holiday Bandit" stealing cash and jewels from luxury apartments.

Police said the suspect 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 the suspect as he tried to enter this past weekend and turned him away. The doorman then called police.

Police said they can link Sabatino to at least five burglaries in recent years, two of them just last month, 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 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.

According to Assistant District Attorney Rachel Polisner's comments at Sunday's arraignment, just this year alone the suspect stole over $100,000, successfully entering three separate apartments and attempting to enter additional apartments. 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. However, based on the ongoing investigation, it appears that the suspect also lived in Beverly Hills and may have a bank account or charges occurring in California.

Polisner says that NYPD has been actively investigating Sabatino since about 2014. However, he has a years-old criminal record and had two open indictments when he was apprehended over the weekend, according to Polisner — one for jumping bail, the other related to the 2001 New York burglary.

After his arrest by detectives in the 19th Precinct, Sabatino had a lawyer call to say he would not be answering any questions. Search warrants were being executed on his Florida home, his car, which had Pennsylvania plates, and his hotel room, officials said. Five different police agencies in four states were involved in this investigation over the years.

“They lost a lot of valuables," NYPD Det. Kevin Gieras said of the suspect's victims.

"Things that were important to them. Heirlooms that were passed down from generation to generation. Things you can’t get back," he said, adding that the NYPD had many resources to assist in locating and apprehending Sabatino, including the help of other units. 

It's not clear how Sabatino allegedly made it past doormen on other occasions. He faces multiple charges, including varying degrees of burglary and grand larceny. Bail was set at $250,000. His attorney declined to comment.

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