Watch CBS News

Diamonds loaned and then stolen for use in fake Justin Timberlake music video recovered in Miami

Diamonds loaned and then stolen for use in fake Justin Timberlake music video recovered in Miami
Diamonds loaned and then stolen for use in fake Justin Timberlake music video recovered in Miami 00:35

MIAMI -- Nearly $1 million in diamonds, stolen in 2017 as part of an elaborate scheme in which notorious conman James Sabatino pretended to be a music executive representing Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, were recently recovered by the FBI in Miami.

Sabatino, 46, is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence at the highest security prison in the country for stealing more than $10 million in jewels and other items, including the Timberlake-Biel jewels.

What made Sabatino's crimes even more remarkable is that he committed them from his jail cell at the Federal Detention Center in Miami where he was awaiting trial on other charges.

Using illegal cell phones smuggled into the federal prison by corrupt guards, Sabatino would contact major jewelers pretending to be an executive with either a major music company, like Sony Music or Universal Music Group.

According to federal prosecutors, he ran this "prison-based criminal organization" from October 2014 to Aril 2017.

During that time, Sabatino, using the name of actual music executives, would convince the jewelers he was working with prominent artists -- Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce were among his favorites -- and that he needed diamond rings and necklaces for the women to wear in their upcoming music videos.

Sabatino allegedly rang up a massive bill at a Miami Beach hotel with fraudulent charges. (Source: Miami Dade Police Department)

Using illegal phones and tablets, he would create bogus email accounts that looked like they came from music companies to make his requests seem even more legitimate, officials said.

Jewelry companies who were eager for the publicity would comply, and by sending cases of jewels by armed courier to an address Sabatino provided, where his co-conspirators would sign for them and try to sell them.

"Sabatino's scheme resulted in the theft of millions of dollars in jewelry," FBI Special Agent Robert Giczy wrote in an affidavit.

In this case, Sabatino claimed to be working at Universal Music on behalf of Timberlake and Biel, and claimed the couple were preparing to shoot a music video together on Miami Beach.

Forevermark, a subsidiary of the diamond giant De Beers, quickly agreed and dispatched nine pieces of jewelry, including a 7.29 carat oval cut diamond worth approximately $326,000 and an 8.55 carat emerald cut diamond worth $580,000.

The jewels were delivered to the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Miami Beach.

Several days later, Forevermark realized it had been hoodwinked.

Sabatino did not work for Universal, did not represent Timberlake or Biel, and there was no music video.

Instead, the diamonds went bye, bye, bye.

Many of the stolen jewels have never been recovered. 

However in June, the Gemological Institute of America, which rates the quality of diamonds, notified the FBI that it had received two diamonds that appeared to match the description of two of the stolen jewels from the faux Timberlake-Biel scheme.

According to court records, the diamonds had been sent in June to the Gemological Institute by a jeweler in Boca Raton. There is no indication that the Boca Raton jeweler knew the diamonds were stolen or how he received them.

In September, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gabrielle Raemy Charest-Turken, filed a motion to have the diamonds returned to Forevermark. The FBI is continuing to investigate.

Forevermark declined to comment.

Sabatino, who plead guilty in 2017, is currently housed in the highest security prison in the country - the SuperMax facility in Colorado. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.