If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Case in point: a wealthy buyer interested in buying two properties and a luxury car for $23 million, and who also pledged $3 million to a cancer research foundation turned out to be nothing more than an alleged fraud, according to police.
Sarasota resident Robert Schnepf, 48, was arrested Monday by police on Nov. 1 after Schnepf, identifying himself as Robert Banagino, allegedly went on a bizarre, two-day spending spree and tried to buy an industrial property for $17.5 million, a residential property for $5.3 million and a 2022 Mercedes-Benz for $132,000, on Oct. 27 and 28, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported.
Schnepf, reportedly posing as Banagino, first contacted an unidentified real estate agent on Oct. 26, claiming he was from New York and was looking to buy commercial property.
The next day, the agent met with Schnepf and claims he agreed on the purchase of the industrial property. Schnepf then reportedly wanted to buy a residential property in the Forest at Hi-Hat Ranch area of East Sarasota. While the paperwork was being prepared for that transaction, Schnepf also allegedly said he wanted to buy a luxury car and was referred to a local dealership.
This is where he slipped up. During the transaction to buy the Mercedes-Benz, Schnepf allegedly signed his real last name instead of Banagino on the purchase option agreement.
While at the dealership, Schnepf is said to have claimed that he had more than $120 million in assets and that he needed to donate some of it for tax purposes.
The dealership connected Schnepf with Vitale, who invited the accused to his home, after he pledged $3 million to the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
The scheme unraveled when the agent became suspicious of Schnepf’s claims and did some digging on the internet, where she learned Schnepf had been accused of fraud on several social media sites. Authorities say Schnepf is a two-time convicted felon and is on probation for a fraud case in New York.
Schnepf was arrested and charged with scheming to defraud more than $50,000. He was held on a $100,000 bond.
— Ted Glanzer