ST. PETE BEACH — A Pinellas County Realtor with a controversial past faces possible revocation of his real estate license.
In a recently filed complaint, Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation says Michael J. Schaffer violated state law by failing to disclose two felony theft convictions. Real estate agents must report all convictions and guilty pleas to the Florida Real Estate Commission, which can revoke or suspend a license for crimes involving dishonest dealings.
State officials opened a case against Schaffer last year after the Tampa Bay Times reported on his criminal history, his ties to a disbarred lawyer and several suspicious transactions, one involving a woman with cancer who said Schaffer and the lawyer scammed her out of more than $100,000.
Schaffer obtained his Florida real estate license in 2001. A year later, he was indicted in Illinois, where he once lived, on charges of stealing nearly $40,000 from a clothing store. He pleaded guilty to two felony counts and was sentenced to 30 months probation. There was no evidence that he ever disclosed his crimes, a Florida official said last year.
"Please don’t call me again,'' Schaffer, 54, said Monday when a reporter phoned for comment. He then hung up.
Since becoming a Realtor in Florida, Schaffer has been the listing agent, selling agent or both in dozens of real estate transactions totaling almost $60 million. Records show that he has a Gulfport address but works out of Realty Resources on St. Pete Beach.
Last year, Samuel Buck of Seminole filed a complaint with the Real Estate Commission after he lost out on the purchase of a villa that Schaffer had listed. Schaffer accepted a lower bid — from a Realtor in the same office — even though Buck’s bid was considerably higher. That Realtor relisted the villa for nearly $75,000 more than he had paid five days earlier.
Schaffer denied any wrongdoing at the time, and Buck said he never heard anything from the commission despite what he called the "fishy'' nature of the deal.
"I think it’s wonderful that they’re finally going to do something,'' Buck said Monday. "He should be held accountable for what he’s done and have his license revoked at the very least.''
Retired Gulfport teacher Marsha Warner said Schaffer and lawyer Andre Keith Sanders talked her into using $114,000 of her retirement funds in 2012 to help a buyer who needed downpayment assistance on a Tierra Verde townhouse. Warner received some monthly interest payments but was eventually told that all of her "investment'' had been lost.
In fact, the men had used Warner’s money to pay off the mortgage on the townhouse, which had belonged to one of Sanders clients. It was then sold to Schaffer’s roommate and business partner, who flipped it — for a $163,000 profit.
"What these criminals did was a perfectly executed con,'' Warner’s lawyer Dianne Griffith said in a letter to the FBI. Despite her losses, the IRS has demanded that Warner, who is undergoing cancer treatment, pay $42,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest on the money she withdrew from her retirement account.
Schaffer did not respond to emailed questions about that case. Sanders, disbarred in 2015 for defrauding consumers in a debt-reduction scheme, died in February.
In its complaint, the business regulation department is asking the Real Estate Commission to impose a penalty on Schaffer that could range from a reprimand to license revocation. He is entitled to a hearing before the commission. No date has been set.