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
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
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
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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