SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota man who promised to donate millions to charity and used a false identity in an attempt to buy several properties valued over $23 million is now facing time behind bars, authorities announced Wednesday.
According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, deputies received a report detailing a series of “suspicious transactions” involving a man who falsely identified himself as Robert “Banagino.”
Detectives learned “Banagino” hired a local realtor and posed as a business owner visiting Sarasota in response to Hurricane Ian. Authorities said “Banagino” expressed interest in buying a commercial property worth $17.5 million and a residential property valued at $5.2 million.
Authorities added that “Banagino” also expressed interest in buying a Rolls Royce. After the realtor connected the man to a local car dealership, “Banagino” agreed to buy a 2022 Mercedes-Benz valued at more than $132,000.
However, when it came time to buy, deputies said “Banagino” signed his name as Robert “Schnepf.” Also at the dealership, “Banagino” alluded to his millions in assets and the need to donate money “for tax purposes,” the sheriff’s office said.
As a result, a manager at the dealership arranged a meeting between “Banagino” and former sportscaster Dick Vitale. After visiting Vitale’s personal home, “Banagino” pledged to contribute $3 million to the sportscaster’s kids vs. cancer foundation.
Detectives soon learned “Banagino’s” real identity was that of two-time convicted felon Robert Schnepf.
Schnepf, 48, was on probation for grand theft at the time and had prior arrests in Florida and New York for grand theft, burglary, assault, possession of forged instruments, criminal impersonation, and other crimes.
Schnepf now faces a single felony charge of scheme to defraud more than $50,000. He remains in custody on a $100,000 bond while the investigation continues.
In a tweet, Vitale wrote he was “devastated and heartbroken” to learn of Schnepf’s “con.”
“This morning I am DEVASTATED & HEARTBROKEN to find out he is a notorious con man who has been arrested numerous times all over from NYC to Florida,” the legendary sportscaster said. “I believed that we had $ 3 Million for kids vs cancer. I am sick to think in my house he was hugging my wife & I & so happy.”