Thief jailed who said,`I'm a lock-pick until I die'

Thief jailed who said,`I'm a lock-pick until I die'
Thief jailed who said,`I'm a lock-pick until I die' 

By David Ovalle
The Miami Herald
Nov. 30, 2007

Condo Joe, slick jewel thief, longtime Miami-Dade police nemesis, bald 
senior citizen, is back behind bars.

Joseph Carbone, 60, was arrested late Wednesday, this time in Palm Bay 
for a break-in across Alligator Alley in Collier County.

Deputies say a husband and wife surprised him just after 1 p.m. Nov. 14 
as he rifled through a nightstand inside their condo. Carbone escaped 
and zoomed off in a black Ford Crown Victoria -- but not before the 
couple jotted down his license plate.

''I've spent 30 years chasing this guy and he just doesn't want to 
quit,'' said retired Miami-Dade Detective Michael Crowley.

Crowley and Miami-Dade Sgt. Thomas ''Bulldog'' Blake spent decades 
tracking the old-breed lock-pick thief who targeted high-rise condos and 
high-end jewelry.

In the mid-1970s, Blake drew national headlines for his pursuit of 
Carbone, who bragged about wearing expensive jewelry while committing 
heists, stayed at swank hotels and always valet parked.

For 18 months, Blake tracked Carbone, tailing him while off duty -- even 
distributing fliers to police along the East Coast while on vacation 
with his family.

His diligence paid off. Alerted to Carbone's presence, Virginia 
authorities arrested Carbone with stolen jewelry and a set of lock picks 
on him.

Blake helped arrest Carbone two more times, in 1984 and 1990.

Carbone was unabashed about his career choice.

''I'm a lock-pick until the day I die. They'll have to pry the 
lock-picks from my cold, dead fingers,'' Carbone once told Blake.

After a 19-month stint in state prison, Carbone was released on 
probation in February 2004 but disappeared. He was arrested within a 
month at the Best Western Floridian Hotel in Cutler Ridge.

Found in his room: some 15 lock picks, jewelry, watches -- and copies of 
old Miami Herald articles chronicling his exploits.

He was released from prison a month later and finished his probation in 
October 2005. Though he slipped off the radar, Crowley and Blake 
suspected he had returned to his old ways.

Carbone was again arrested this Oct. 3 in Indian River County.

He was found, deputies say, at 10:25 a.m. trying to open a house door, 
his hand draped with a white handkerchief. A deputy later pulled over 
Carbone, driving a Ford Fusion rented in Miami.

Sweaty and nervous, he allowed the deputy to search his brown fanny 
pack. Inside: small screw drivers, a small pry tool, two white 
handkerchiefs and a ``a large amount of lock picking tools.''

Inside the trunk, deputies found diamond earrings in a box, two pairs of 
binoculars, a window punch tool, more handkerchiefs -- and 12 baseball 

''I guess they cover up the baldness,'' Crowley quipped.

Carbone was charged with attempted burglary, possession of burglary 
tools and loitering and prowling. He was released on bond.

Then in November in Collier County, a husband and wife returning to 
their two-story condo in a gated community saw Carbone through the 
bedroom window. He was rifling through the nightstand.

''She ran in yelling and chasing him out of the house,'' said Collier 
County Lt. Chad Parker.

Carbone dropped the jewelry and hopped into the Crown Victoria but the 
couple wrote down the tag number.

That proved his undoing, deputies said: The license plate was registered 
to him.

Deputies consulted with Blake, Crowley, and Miami-Dade career criminal 
Detective John Laughlin.

Crowley immediately called a former co-worker at Miami police: William 
Berger, now the police chief of Palm Bay -- where Carbone has been 

By Wednesday night, the old jewel thief was arrested at his exclusive 
home by Palm Bay crime suppression detectives.

Even Berger was surprised at Carbone's stubborn refusal to quit 

''You don't see these type of guys around anymore,'' Berger said.

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