New York Daily News

Updated: September 16, 2015, 8:09 AMM

  

 

Australian man NYPD mistook for credit card thief — not James Blake — speaks out: ‘This whole mess could have been avoided’

BY TINA MOORE

He has a twin brother — but it’s not James Blake.

Sean Satha, who lives Down Under, is the innocent man in a photo that led a plainclothes cop to body-slam former tennis pro Blake while busting a fraudulent credit card ring in Midtown.

“My name is clearly tagged at the bottom of the photo — so I feel this whole mess could have been avoided if someone had spent 10 minutes doing some research on Google prior to the manhunt,” Satha, who works in Sydney, wrote in an email obtained by the Daily News.

Officer James Frascatore, who is white, tackled Blake, who is black, on the sidewalk and cuffed him outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Sept. 9, cops said. Frascatore was one of six cops ready to pounce on whomever showed up to pay GoButler.com, which was delivering high-end goods that had been bought with stolen credit card information.

They were armed with a photo of Satha, which police sources said was found on the Internet by the company, which tipped off the cops to the alleged credit card fraud. A high-ranking police source said cops received the photo at a meeting just before the bust at the hotel.

The incident wasn’t on the NYPD’s radar until after The News published Blake’s story later that day.

At the time, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the company that was the victim of the fraud provided the photo and that the person depicted “looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake.”

Blake, who previously said he thought there was “probably a race factor involved” in the stop, said Tuesday that he’d like to know how cops ended up with the photo.

“I do think it warrants a comment from the police who used a photo of someone in Australia for the reason to apprehend me,” Blake told The News on Tuesday. “I would be interested to hear that.”

Bratton refused to address specifics when asked why cops didn’t vet the photo better, saying the case was under investigation.

“We’re doing our internal affairs investigation,” he said. “CCRB (the Civilian Complaint Review Board), which will end up having the jurisdiction on the use of force, is doing their investigation. So I’m not going to get into any of the details while it’s under investigation.”

Bratton said he had concerns about the stop and placed the cop on desk duty right away.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association released an open letter berating critics of Frascatore.

“The men and women of the NYPD are once again disheartened to read another knee-jerk reaction from ivory tower pundits who enjoy the safety provided by our Police Department without understanding the very real risks that we take to provide that safety,” PBA President Patrick Lynch wrote.

The statement drew a quick response from Blake’s camp. He has vowed to try to seek change in the way some cops treat black men.

“In attempting to justify Mr. Frascatore’s indefensible conduct by reference to the risks and rigors of police work, Mr. Lynch badly disserves himself and the many honorable officers he is sworn to represent — all of whom have themselves been tarnished by that conduct,” Blake spokesman Kevin Marino said in a statement.

Satha, who didn’t respond to email messages, wrote that he was angry about cops’ treatment of Blake.

“I actually have a twin brother and would be horrified if he was treated in such a way for merely resembling me,” Satha wrote in the email obtained by The News. “I have a huge amount of respect for James Blake and his handling of the situation.”

Satha wrote that the image cops used was taken from his brother’s Instagram account and depicted him holding his friend’s newborn son. The baby was cropped out in the photo used to supposedly identify Blake.

Satha, who runs a sunglasses company called Local Supply, wrote that he was “disturbed by the assault and intimidation” that Blake suffered.

Satha signed the email, “Sean (aka James Blake’s “twin brother).”

“At first I was kind of stoked that the cops thought I looked like a professional athlete,” he told CBS News.

That’s until he saw the video of Blake’s arrest, which was “really awful, just over the top,” he said.

He says his brother’s credit card information was stolen and used to buy items from the delivery service. The service ended up finding his snapshot on his brother’s Instagram account.

The video of the unsuspecting Blake getting body-slammed and dragged to the ground by the cop went viral after its release Friday.

Bratton said he didn’t believe race was a factor in the stop and that Blake was simply identified by the victim, which was the company.

Frascatore, on the force four years, has been accused of using excessive force and failing to identify himself as a cop in the past.

Former Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show” Tuesday that Blake’s arrest was “inappropriate.” The plainclothes cop should have introduced himself to Blake with members of his team around him to prevent Blake from running, he said.

James Short, 27, and Jarmaine Grey, 26, were arrested at the hotel in the scam that day, cops said.

Bratton said last week that the man in the photo — now identified as Satha — looked “like the twin brother of Mr. Blake.”

With Wayne Coffey, Shayna Jacobs