SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sarasota man who made a false promise of a $3 million dollar charity donation to Dick Vitale has pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a fictitious personal identification information, according to the county sheriff’s office.
Posting on Facebook, the Sarasota County Sheriff said “Robert Schnepf entered a guilty plea” for the charge on March 7.
In October 2022, Schnepf identified himself as “Robert Banagino,” according to the sheriff, saying he wanted to donate millions of dollars to charity and tried to use a fake identity to buy more than $23 million worth of properties.
Detectives investigated after receiving reports about him. According to previous reporting, Schnepf had hired a local realtor and pretended to be a business owner visiting Sarasota in after Hurricane Ian.
While using the Banagino moniker, Schnepf reportedly said he tried to buy a Rolls Royce. The realtor he had hired tried to connect him with a dealership in the area, and as Banagino, he agreed to buy a $132,000 Mercedes-Benz.
When it was time to pay for the car, deputies said he signed his name as “Schnepf” instead.
While at the dealership, deputies said that Schnepf mentioned having millions of dollars in assets and a need to donate money for tax reasons.
The dealership manager arranged a meeting between Schnepf, as Banagnio, and former sportscaster Dick Vitale, who runs a cancer charity for children. Schnepf was allowed to meet Vitale and visit him at his home, and promised a $3 million contribution to the foundation.
Instead, detectives learned that the offer was false, and that he was, in fact, a two-time convicted felon, on probation for grand theft and with prior arrests in both Florida and New York for grand theft, burglary, assault, possession of forged instruments, criminal impersonation, and other crimes.
Vitale, after learning of the “con” by Schnepf wrote online that he was “devastated and heartbroken.”
“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 at the time. “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.”
The Sarasota resident was arrested on Nov. 2, 2022. Months later, he’s entered a guilty plea for fraudulent use of fictitious personal identification information, and sentenced to four years in prison, according to the sheriff’s office.