By Michelle Graff
Miami--A man who scammed high-end retailers and brands out of more than $9 million in jewelry and watches from behind bars has pleaded guilty and faces up to 20 more years in prison.

James Sabatino, a 40-year-old native New Yorker described by the Miami Herald as a “serial” con man, was an inmate at the Federal Detention Center in Miami when, in October 2014, he obtained a Samsung cell phone through a prison guard.

Using the contraband phone, he created several email addresses and began contacting “luxury store employees and brand representatives” via telephone calls, emails and text messages, court papers state.

He told them his name was “James Prolima” and that he worked for Sony Music Entertainment and RocNation, the recording company founded by Jay-Z, and convinced them to send watches and jewelry, as well as clothing and handbags, to various locations in south Florida that he purported would be used in music videos that were being filmed in Miami.

Later, using iPhones obtained through another guard at the prison, Sabatino began using the aliases “Paul Castellana,” “Samuel Castro” and “Andrew Kronfeld” and pretending that he worked for Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Pictures International, Creative Artists Agency and Universal Music Group.

He convinced more than six “luxury jewelry companies”--including representatives of jeweler-to-the-stars Lorraine Schwartz--to send jewelry that would be used as props in videos featuring popular musicians and actors.

However, since Sabatino was a prison inmate--not a music or movie executive, as he claimed--the jewelry and watches never got used in any videos. Instead, they were sent to outside conspirators and got sold at pawn shops, court papers state.

Two of the co-conspirators deposited some of the money they got from selling the luxury goods into the commissary accounts of Sabatino and another inmate, Jorge Duquen. Court papers also state that some of the items were delivered to an associate of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra, of which Sabatino is also known to be an associate.

Sabatino pleaded guilty on Sept. 1 in federal court to charges of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations), mail/wire fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property.

The Jewelers Security Alliance included a note about Sabatino in its crime alert circulated Thursday. It states that anyone who believes they might have been a victim of Sabatino’s scheme or has additional information should contact FBI Special Agent Robert A. Giczy at 754-703-2000.

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