Police: 82-year-old serial burglar bluffed his way past NYC doormen
After years of hunting the so-called “July Fourth Burglar," detectives have arrested their senior suspect
By Graham Rayman and John Annese
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — He’s an Over-The-Hill Gang of one.
An 82-year-old serial burglar bluffed his way past doormen at posh Upper East Side apartment buildings to steal pricey jewels and precious heirlooms while their owners were away, cops said.
On Saturday, after years of hunting the so-called “July Fourth Burglar" — a nod not only to his preferred day to steal, but also to his actual birthday — detectives arrested their senior suspect, Samuel Sabatino.
“I thought it was a joke when he told me” his birthday-nickname match, said Det. Kevin Gieras of the 19th Precinct, who’s been tracking the crook since 2014.
Sabatino, who has burglary convictions dating back to 1977, has been linked to five holiday-weekend heists this year, with police estimating his 2019 haul as at least $139,000.
Cops are working to link him to more cases, including a 2015 burglary where the thief’s face was caught on a nanny-camera. A source said authorities are seeking a warrant for a home linked to Sabatino in Florida.
“This guy would come in on holiday weekends throughout the summer… and he would prey on people that were away throughout the weekend," Gieras said. “He would gain access to the buildings because he looks the part.... The guy’s 82 years old. You would never think somebody of this age would be doing something like this.”
Sabatino often walked past doormen without a second glance, Gieras said, and occasionally, the octogenarian crook would blend in with a group of people entering a building.
“They didn’t even look twice at this guy,” Gieras said.
He got roughly $100,000 in jewelry, high-end watches from two apartments in the same building on E. 79th St. and Third Ave. on Memorial Day weekend, and snatched another $39,000 worth of baubles from an E. 68th St. building near Second Ave on Fourth of July Weekend, according to a criminal complaint.
He also talked his way out of being caught, according to the complaint. On either July 6 or 7, he knocked on a door in the E. 68th St. building, and when someone answered, simply said, “I think I am on the wrong floor,” the complaint alleges.
On the day of his arrest, he tried his bluff on a doorman who didn’t recognize him at a building on Third Ave. at 91st St.
“I am here to see my cousin Suarez in 16F. Maybe he lives in the other building... I must have the wrong buildings,” he said, according to the complaint.
Sabatino didn’t know Gieras’ team was already tracking him. “We were following him around,” the detective said. “We saw him enter a building on the Upper East Side. After exiting, he was apprehended.”
Sabatino was ordered held without bail.
Sabatino has served two short prison sentences in New York — one in 1977 for attempted burglary in the Bronx, the other for burglary in Westchester County in 1994. He also faces charges for a 2004 bail jumping arrest and an open burglary indictment from 2011, public records show.
Gieras said Sabatino is likely the oldest person he’s arrested in his 20 years on the job.
“I knew from video and photos and following this case for years, I knew he was an older gentleman,” the detective said. “It was just nice to bring closure, to stop this and prevent this from happening."
Sabatino’s lawyer declined to comment Tuesday.
©2019 New York Daily News