Robert Schnepf, Dick Vitale, and a Decade of Alleged Scams in Florida and New York

It was too good to be true, with a Florida twist.

After agreeing to purchase a 2022 Mercedes-Benz S-Class at a Sarasota dealership final month, police say, a person who known as himself Robert Banagino advised the supervisor serving to him signal for the luxurious automotive retailing for over $132,000 that he had an uncommon drawback.

The self-styled New York businessman mentioned he had traveled to Florida as a part of his hurricane reduction enterprise within the wake of the devastation wrought by Ian, and determined to buy two properties in the identical variety of days, based on a Sarasota Sheriff’s Workplace police report. At first, he sought a 26,560-square-foot industrial warehouse for somewhat over $17 million, earlier than expressing curiosity in proudly owning a $5.2 million seven-bedroom mansion about half-hour south.

However he wasn’t executed but.

Banagino advised the gross sales supervisor of the Mercedes-Benz dealership on Oct. 28 that he wanted to spend extra—particularly, to donate a few of his $127 million web value for tax functions. He went so far as to indicate an image of his loaded checking account steadiness to show his wealth, based on the report.

Virtually instantly, the supervisor supplied a tantalizing resolution: donate the cash to ESPN legend Dick Vitale’s most cancers basis.

“They known as me and advised me of his intention [of] making this massive donation and requested if he may deliver him over to my home to introduce me to him,” Vitale advised The Every day Beast. “Shortly after assembly him, he verbally dedicated to a $3 million donation for pediatric most cancers analysis.”

The assembly was brief, Vitale recalled, punctuated by the customer asking for a signed basketball for his “daughter Jenna” who he mentioned was on a basketball scholarship at Florida State College. However when the sportscaster supplied to take an image with the mega-donor, he swiftly declined.

Vitale didn’t increase an eyebrow when the elusive backer most well-liked to not doc the numerous win for the Jimmy V Basis for Most cancers Analysis—as a result of he saved bragging about his wealth.

That is all merely a job to him.

Laura Maslin Osenni

“He saved saying that his corporations had been doing so effectively and that he needed to offer again to charities,” Vitale mentioned concerning the rendezvous at his dwelling.

Whereas Vitale was “initially ecstatic” about such a hefty donation, authorities say the native realtor working with Banagino had grown suspicious upon realizing he had but to indicate an ID regardless of a number of makes an attempt.

After just a few web searches, the realtor started to surprise if Robert Banagino even existed.

In reality, the supposed titan in search of $23 million {dollars} value of properties and automobiles in Sarasota was Robert Schnepf—a person beforehand described in media experiences as a con artist who was presently on probation for grand theft.

Whereas it isn’t instantly clear if Schnepf even had the cash for these lavish purchases and donations, police say that over the past 15 years, the 48-year-old has swindled a slew of individuals and companies in Florida and New York beneath a sequence of disguises. They vary from an FDNY Emergency Medical Companies lieutenant to a military struggle veteran to a plumber. Whereas the alleged scams and aliases range, Schnepf’s motivation all the time appears to be the identical: attempt to gobble up cash or items earlier than disappearing.

Schnepf’s legal historical past dates again to a minimum of 2009, and consists of arrests within the two states on an array of expenses, together with housebreaking, assault, legal impersonation, solid devices, and theft. Interviews and court docket paperwork illustrate how he was in a position to slip by way of the cracks for years—evading severe punishment and enraging these unlucky sufficient to cross paths with him.

And whereas Schnepf just isn’t straight charged over the pledge to Vitale, his try to dupe a celeb might signify the top of an extended and inconceivable highway to infamy.

“This man is a rock star of a rip-off artist. He’s very charismatic and good and makes you’re feeling like you’ll be able to belief him,” Laura Maslin Osenni, a 63-year-old Florida resident who was the sufferer of a theft scheme Schnepf was convicted of in 2019, advised The Every day Beast.

How do you impersonate a New York Metropolis… EMS employee and nonetheless are in a position to get out on the streets?

Religion Gamali

Sarasota County Sheriff’s Workplace

The Sarasota Sheriff’s Workplace has charged Schnepf with a single felony of scheming to defraud greater than $50,000 in reference to the alleged rip-off involving the property and automotive offers, and he’s now being held on a $100,000 bond. Schnepf pleaded not responsible to the cost and has requested a jury trial.

If convicted of this newest felony cost, Schnepf faces as much as 30 years in jail. His public defender, Geoffrey Proffitt, declined The Every day Beast’s request for remark. Schnepf’s household didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Standing 6’6 and weighing over 250 kilos, Schnepf doesn’t precisely slide beneath the radar.

A local of Forest Hills, Queens, native information experiences state that Schnepf made fairly the identify for himself in New York—by way of that identify and his occupation appeared to range relying on who he was with.

Courtroom paperwork recommend he first made it onto legislation enforcement radar round April 2009, when he was charged with housebreaking in St. Lucie County, Florida. A warrant obtained by The Every day Beast states that Schnepf broke into a lady’s home “with the intent to commit an offense.”

Nonetheless, Schnepf was quickly again within the Empire State—the place he allegedly used a number of pretend identities to rip-off girls out of cash. Amongst his hottest alleged grifts, based on a transcript of a 911 name to Southampton Village Police Division, was pretending to be “a 10-year Particular Forces veteran to elicit meals, lodging, and work within the space.” (It isn’t clear if he was ever arrested or charged in reference to that scheme.)

Southhampton Village Police Division

In different components of city, based on a 2010 article by the New York Put up, Schnepf would fake to be a enterprise mogul with ties from everybody from Rihanna to Heineken.

Throughout an October 2009 speech, Schnepf reportedly promised $3.5 million to fund a facility for a Staten Island home violence shelter. At one other charity occasion, Schnepf was caught on digital camera donating $50,000—earlier than claiming that he was in a film with Jessica Alba. (The Every day Beast couldn’t discover any document of the donation or movie look.)

“If you look again on it, you’re feeling like an fool,” Lengthy Island resident Kim Cuneo advised the Put up over a decade in the past. “He’s only a easy talker. He’s excellent at what he does.”

Swirling rumors about Schnepf’s antics finally caught the attention of native New York reporter Howard Thompson, who was identified for a TV bit meant to assist residents resolve conflicts. The present, “Assist Me Howard,” hinged on confronting people who had ill-gotten positive factors—and sometimes included dramatic shock moments that will elicit wild confessions.

“Hey Gang, Belief me, nobody needs to search out Robert Schnepf… greater than I do!” Thompson wrote on Fb on Dec. 16, 2009.

Schnepf was arrested simply days later in Southampton on the excellent Florida housebreaking warrant. He was finally extradited, although it isn’t clear what occurred to the case.

Upon his launch, it appeared like Schnepf is likely to be laying low. Finally, nonetheless, he was as soon as once more on the radar of his outdated foe—PIX 11’s Howard Thompson—after the reporter caught wind of his allegedly bilking New Jersey resident Marcus Matos.

In keeping with Matos, Schnepf promised to renovate his dwelling to the tune of $34,000. As an alternative, Matos advised Thompson in a “Assist Me Howard” section, Schnepf and his crew merely tore up his Dover dwelling and vanished after an area inspector shut down the development website for not having the correct permits.

“Sick to my abdomen, actually,” Matos mentioned within the section. “I imply we principally gave him just about all the things.”

Within the dramatic section, Thomas caught as much as Schnepf after what he described as years of “taking part in catch me when you can.” Exterior of a two-family Staten Island dwelling, Thompson is seen strolling as much as the towering hulk simply as he’s exiting his automotive. Sporting a chin strap beard and baseball cap, Schnepf insists that he didn’t rip anybody off.

“I wanna ensure this will get straightened out as quickly as potential,” Schnepf mentioned. “I don’t have that cash.”

Matos didn’t reply to questions concerning the allegations, however advised The Every day Beast that realizing Schnepf was “free to roam and in a position to proceed together with his deceitful methods is sickening.” It isn’t clear if he was ever charged in reference to Matos’ allegations. The Dover Police Division didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Whereas Schnepf’s very public profile on native tv garnered on-line buzz, it appeared to die down by the point Religion Gamali met him as she was promoting her dwelling.

The 54-year-old Brooklyn native mentioned that when she was related to Schnepf by her realtor to assist clear out her home in 2019, he launched himself as Robert Hart. She wanted all the assistance she may get, she mentioned, as a result of she had been recognized with most cancers that very same yr.

Whereas Gamali declined to talk intimately about her relationship with the person she would later be taught was Schnepf, she did inform The Every day Beast that she started relationship him that yr—across the similar time she launched him to a buddy she met on the fitness center, Laura Maslin Osenni.

“He was good and immediately mentioned we had been household,” Osenni advised The Every day Beast, including that she additionally knew Schnepf as “Robert Hart.”

So when Osenni and her then-husband started to make plans to maneuver to Florida, she was delighted to be taught Gamali was planning the identical southern migration. To make issues much more fortuitous, she realized that Schnepf was a “grasp plumber” who may be capable of assist them with their new dwelling.

Osenni didn’t assume twice when Schnepf advised her she wanted a brand new AC unit. She mentioned she wrote checks in Could 2019 totaling $25,000 for the unit and extra plumbing work to be accomplished over the following month. Later, she mentioned, she would be taught that her husband gave Schnepf an extra mortgage of $30,000.

“At first, I assumed it was an incredible deal for all of the work he mentioned needed to be executed. He additionally mentioned that the AC unit would solely be $5,000, as a result of he received an incredible deal,” Osenni mentioned. “My husband on the time and I assumed he was doing us a favor—so we went for it. We had no purpose to not imagine him.”

However by June 2019, Osenni mentioned, Schnepf had stopped answering her calls and had not executed any of the work he proposed. She mentioned her former husband, Peter Osenni, additionally tried to contact Schnepf a number of occasions—however acquired radio silence.

“He began coming to the home much less and fewer. Then he stopped answering all cellphone calls,” Osenni mentioned. “We actually wanted that cash [we loaned], ?”

Lastly, two months after handing over hundreds of {dollars}, Osenni and her husband filed a report with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Workplace. In an August 2019 police report obtained by The Every day Beast, police say the Osennis gave Schnepf cash for the housekeeping—and famous that Schnepf additionally offered them with a enterprise card figuring out himself “as Rob Hart, grasp plumber, of Hart’s Plumbing Inc.”

“It was found [Schnepf] used an Alias on his enterprise card and isn’t licensed within the state of Florida beneath both identify,” the report states. “The tackle offered for the enterprise is a publish workplace field and the cellphone goes unanswered.”

Circuit Courtroom, Sarasota County Florida

Schnepf was initially arrested on a second-degree grand-theft felony cost and a misdemeanor cost of appearing as a contractor with out a license for “knowingly get hold of[ing] $5,000 of the sufferer’s cash with the intent to completely deprive the sufferer of his funds.”

Courtroom paperwork present Schnepf was launched on bail for $1,500 earlier than finally pleading no contest on the 2 expenses. He was sentenced to probation for 18 months in July 2022 and required to pay $12,000 in restitution, in increments of $666 a month, beginning this previous August.

Osenni mentioned that as of this previous week, she had but to see a cent of that cash.

For Gamali’s half, she mentioned she was thunderstruck by Schnepf’s illicit exercise—and threw Schnepf out in 2019, when she received suspicious and “cops had been coming to the home.”

“I used to be going by way of chemo on the time,” she mentioned. “I’m nonetheless sick over what he did to Laura, however I had no clue in any respect till it was too late. All I might say is he’s a disgusting human being and I can’t perceive why he [was] nonetheless strolling across the avenue in any case he has executed.”

Osenni’s opinion of him is, likewise, lower than forgiving.

“That is all he is aware of find out how to do. That is all merely a job to him,” she added.

After he was by way of with a lady going by way of most cancers remedy and her buddy, Schnepf made his means again north. This time, based on the Hearth Division of New York, he even had a fancy dress.

In July 2020, Schnepf was arrested after allegedly impersonating an FDNY Emergency Medical Companies Lieutenant to swindle Staten Island residents and enterprise homeowners because the pandemic surged throughout New York.

Full with a lightweight blue FDNY uniform that had the identify “Lt. Hart” embroidered on the suitable chest, authorities allege that Schnepf flashed a pretend badge as he approached people and advised them they had been in violation of a metropolis code. Then, Schnepf would allegedly both demand cash to repair the fictional drawback—or ask for cash to look the opposite means.

“It’s a full abuse of public belief for somebody to impersonate a public servant,” Hearth Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro mentioned in a press release on the time. He added that their “companions within the prosecutor’s workplace and legislation enforcement alike is not going to tolerate any state of affairs the place somebody is locally falsely representing themselves for private acquire.”

In keeping with a 2020 New York Every day Information article, Schnepf additionally allegedly gassed up his automotive and took gadgets from a number of Staten Island institutions with out paying—falsely telling workers that he left his pockets on the FDNY station and would return to pay them again.

Authorities finally caught as much as Schnepf on June 19, 2020, after fireplace marshals noticed him carrying the uniform and “appearing suspiciously inside a public park in Queens,” based on a press launch. He was charged with petit larceny, legal impersonation of a public servant, and possession of a solid instrument.

The case, prosecuted by the Richmond County District Legal professional’s workplace, continues to be pending. A district lawyer spokesperson advised The Every day Beast {that a} Schnepf “court docket date was in August 2021, the place a bench warrant was ordered because of [him] failing to look.”

“How do you impersonate a New York Metropolis… EMS employee and nonetheless are in a position to get out on the streets?” Gamali puzzled in an interview.

None of that messy previous appeared to matter when Schnepf reached out to an area realtor final month because the mysteriously rich businessman in want of some property.

The latest Florida arrest report states that on Oct. 26, the realtor texted a person she believed was Robert Banagino after receiving an inquiry for her companies.

Regardless of being unable to search out anybody by that identify in her realtor database—or on-line—the realtor met Schnepf on the Parrot Restaurant in Sarasota. On the assembly, Schnepf defined that “he was from New York and had traveled to Florida as a part of his enterprise” for Hurricane Ian reduction after the storm had ravaged the world, based on the arrest report.

“Whereas in Florida, he (Banagino) determined he needed to buy a selected property,” the report states, noting that the 23,450 square-foot plot was initially listed for $18 million.

After he met with the homeowners of the property about 12 minutes from the airport, the worth was lowered to $17.5 million. As soon as that deal was accomplished, Schnepf instantly requested to purchase a second property—this time a Mediterranean-style lakefront mansion simply steps from Myakka River State Park.

An inventory for the house says the three.5-acre lot boasts a movie show, sport room, and separate visitor home.

The newest Sarasota arrest report states that whereas the relator was making ready the paperwork to bid on the house, Schnepf expressed curiosity in shopping for a Rolls Royce. That prompted her to disclose that “her father was the Gross sales Supervisor of the Mercedes-Benz dealership.”

On the dealership, Schnepf agreed to purchase a luxurious automotive, notably signing the buying possibility beneath his alias “Robert Banagino”—however signing and relationship the doc together with his authorized identify, based on the arrest report. The costly buy quickly parlayed into the dealership supervisor arranging the assembly with Vitale in order that Schnepf may donate cash “for tax functions.”

“I’m well-known for elevating cash for pediatric most cancers analysis by way of the V Basis,” as Vitale advised The Every day Beast.

“My annual Dick Vitale Gala has raised $55 million up to now, so naturally I used to be initially ecstatic after I was advised that he needed to donate $3 million,” he added.

Quickly after Schnepf’s pledge, based on the arrest report, the realtor “felt uneasy” about his identification and started to perform a little research. Shortly, she found particulars of his previous—and alerted the authorities. It didn’t take lengthy for Vitale to take to Twitter to specific his disgust.

“He’s a infamous con man who has been arrested quite a few occasions throughout from NYC to Florida,” Vitale tweeted on Oct. 29. “I believed that we had $ 3 Million for teenagers vs most cancers. I’m sick to assume in my home he was hugging my spouse & I & so completely satisfied.”

Whereas Vitale was left “devastated [and] heartbroken]” over Schnepf’s alleged scheme, a minimum of considered one of his former victims was expressing reduction he might lastly have hit the top of the highway.

Even when it took means too lengthy for a reckoning.

“It’s wild to assume that now that Dick Vitale is concerned, he might lastly go to jail,” Osenni mentioned with fun.

“He deserves to go to jail. Robert is such a chunk of shit.”

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