WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — An Oklahoma man is awaiting extradition to Walton County after authorities say an investigation revealed a racketeering scheme involving a property management company stealing thousands from more than two dozen victims.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office says that starting in December of 2019, multiple victims contacted them to file complaints against the manager of sunburst companies, LLC. Stephen Edward Shafer, 49, of Oklahoma City.
Victims allegedly include property owners, renters, vendors and former employees of Sunburst.
During the investigation, authorities say they found Sunburst was hired to manage more than 200 properties and in doing so would take a commission fee and other liabilities. The remainder of the money was held in a trust fund on behalf of owners. In addition, Sunburst allegedly collected security deposits from guests wishing to rent the properties for vacation, which were also collected in the trust.
According to deputies, beginning in October, Shafer stopped paying property owners and in December of 2019 created a separate company, Southern Sands, in an attempt to persuade them to switch companies under a “no-cancellation” contract for reduced fees.
During that time the sheriff’s office says a former Sunburst employee indicated to investigators Shafer continued to take security deposits while refusing to pay employees, reimburse renters deposits, or pay property owners.
Florida Department of Revenue provided copies of state tax returns indicating Shafer failed to pay sales tax to the State of Florida beginning June 2019 in excess of $100,000.
Walton County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Bureau filed a warrant and Shafer was arrested by Oklahoma City Police Department. He is currently awaiting extradition on charges of racketeering, organized fraud, and failing to remit sales tax of more than $100,000.
Additional charges are pending in this case.