Courts & Crime

Pride in the job: Notorious Miami jewel thief heads back to jail

Condo Joe, the flashy jewel thief of Miami lore who dared detectives for decades, is headed back to the slammer.

Joseph Carbone, 62, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to break into an Indian River County condo. In court late last month in the Treasure Coast, Carbone told the sentencing judge he would leave prison devoted to a new profession -- fiction writing.

"Oh, please; Ernest Hemingway he is not. That's funny,'' scoffed retired Miami-Dade Detective Mike Crowley, an old nemesis.

Carbone's new career may be delayed longer. He was transferred last week to a Collier County jail to face a September trial for another alleged break-in.

Never violent, always snappily dressed and fond of parking with valets during jobs, the master lock-pick is a throwback to the 1970s, when he bedeviled cops while whisking away high-end jewelry from posh condominiums.

Crowley and partner Thomas "The Bulldog'' Blake tailed him for years. Blake even passed out fliers while on vacation along the East Coast -- diligence that paid off when Virginia police arrested Carbone in the late 1970s.

One year, Carbone sent Blake a Christmas card signed ``Condo Joe.'' After a stint behind bars in 1989, Carbone stopped by the police station to say hello, leaving a note adorned with a smiley face.

Carbone later claimed he had found the Lord. His new business, he said: water purifier sales. Blake and Crowley promptly tailed him to Palm Beach County, where he was arrested again on charges of trying to do a break-in.

"He's proud of being a thief. It's a profession, and the older you are, the more successful you are,'' Blake said Monday. "Nobody suspects an old man.''

After more prison, Carbone was arrested in Cutler Ridge in 2004. Detectives found lock picks, jewelry, watches -- and copies of old Miami Herald articles chronicling his exploits.

He finished probation a year later and was soon arrested in Indian River County.

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