For almost two decades, Robert Schnepf has been accused of using elaborate aliases—and even an embroidered fire department uniform—to run cons up and down the Eastern Seaboard. On Tuesday, the 48-year-old will finally be locked up for his crimes after a Florida judge sentenced him to four years in prison.
The State Attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit told The Daily Beast that Circuit Court Chief Judge Charles E. Roberts sentenced Schnepf after he entered an open plea in two unrelated cases, one for violating the terms of his probation for grand theft and the other for attempting to defraud several individuals out of $23 million dollars worth of cars and homes in Sarasota years later. The plea means that Schnepf was not able to cut a deal with prosecutors and his fate rested in the hands of Roberts.
Last July, Schnepf was sentenced to probation after pleading no contest to swindling Laura Maslin Osenni and her then-husband out of thousands of dollars under the guise of repairing her home. Months later, Schnepf used a fake name to try to obtain two properties and a luxury car—and bizarrely also offered to donate $3 million to ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale’s cancer foundation.
“This is the first time he’s ever been to prison,” Osenni, who says she has yet to see a dime in restitution from the 2019 scheme, told The Daily Beast. “I feel good. I just wish it was a long prison term. I would like to see him pound rocks.”
Osenni said that she supplied Roberts with a victim impact statement before Tuesday’s hearing and attended the sentencing. She said that she walked out of the sentencing shortly after Schnepf tried to blame his crimes on “drugs and alcohol.”
“I was literally nauseous when he walked out,” she added. “I’m surprised I didn’t hurl.”
Vitale declined to comment on Schnepf’s sentencing, which he did not attend. Schnpef’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Mr. Schnepf demonstrated that he used elaborate confidence scams to deceive others. Sadly, Mr. Schnepf consistently preyed upon the charity of others,” Assistant State Attorney Andrew van Sickle told The Daily Beast after the sentencing.
“The people of Sarasota deserve to be secure in their financial dealings, and this sentence will guarantee that Mr. Schnepf will not be able to take advantage of businesses and charitable organizations. I wish to thank the detectives in the newly created Economic Crime Unit for the outstanding work that resulted in a quick and just resolution,” he added.
As previously reported by The Daily Beast, Schnepf has been accused of swindling people and businesses in New York and Florida under a multitude of disguises and aliases over the last 15 years. Police say that since at least 2009, Schnepf has used several schemes to trick victims out of money before disappearing, including posing as an FDNY Emergency Medical Services lieutenant and army vet.
His cons have resulted in arrests in the two states on a slew of charges, including burglary, assault, forged instruments, criminal impersonation, and theft.
Schnepf had already been charged in two cases in New York and Florida—and had been the focus of PIX11’s “Help Me, Howard” segment—when Osenni met him in 2019. She said no alarm bells rang, in part because he introduced himself as Robert Hart.
Osenni said she and her then-husband took Schnepf up on his offer to help with their new home because he said he was a “master plumber.” In May 2019, she said, she wrote a check for $25,000 for a new AC unit and additional plumbing work. Later, she would learn, her then-spouse gave Schnepf an additional loan of $30,000.
Osenni said that by June 2019, Schnepf had stopped answering all communication and she filed a report with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was discovered [Schnepf] used an Alias on his business card and is not licensed in the state of Florida under either name,” the August 2019 report states. “The address provided for the business is a post office box and the phone goes unanswered.”
Schnepf pleaded no contest to two charges. In July 2022, he was sentenced to 18 months probation and ordered to pay $12,000 in restitution. Osenni said she has yet to see the money.
“This guy is a rock star of a scam artist. He is very charismatic and nice and makes you feel like you can trust him,” Osenni said in November.
Despite his probation, prosecutors said, Schnepf continued flim-flamming up north. In July 2020, he was arrested after allegedly impersonating an FDNY Emergency Medical Services lieutenant to steal from Staten Island businesses and residents. Authorities say that Schnepf even had a light blue FDNY uniform that had the name “Lt. Hart” embroidered on the right chest as he approached people to either allegedly demand money for some fake problem. The status of the Richmond County District Attorney case is not immediately clear.
Still, prosecutors say, Schnepf simply packed his bags and went back down to the Sunshine State to complete one more son.
On Oct. 26, investigators say that a local realtor was texting someone she believed to be Robert Banagino about finding a property in Sarasota. The arrest report states that Schnepf told the realtor that “he was from New York and had traveled to Florida as part of his business” for Hurricane Ian relief after the storm had ravaged the area, according to the arrest report.
“While in Florida, he (Banagino) decided he wanted to purchase a specific property,” the arrest report states, noting that the 23,450-square-foot plot he was interested in was $17.5 million.
Once he closed that deal, Schnepf asked to buy lakefront mansion minutes away—before asking for assistance on how to secure a Rolls-Royce. The arrest report states that after agreeing to buy a 2022 Mercedes-Benz S-Class at a Sarasota dealership, Schnepf claimed that he needed to donate some of his $127 million net worth “for tax purposes.”
Prosecutors did not reveal why Schnepf tried to donate to the ESPN legend’s charity, but Vitale told The Daily Beast in November that he was initially “ecstatic” when he heard about the possible hefty donation.
“They called me and told me of his intention [of] making this large donation and asked if he could bring him over to my house to introduce me to him,” Vitale previously told The Daily Beast, saying that during the meeting he signed a basketball for his visitor’s “daughter.”
“Shortly after meeting him, he verbally committed to a $3 million donation for pediatric cancer research,” Vitale added.
Eventually, the arrest report states, the realtor “felt uneasy” about Schnepf’s identity and soon learned his true identity. He was arrested soon after.
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