MANATEE -- A Manatee County real estate agent already under investigation for reportedly scamming vacation renters and homebuyers on Anna Maria Island has been arrested and is facing charges for operating without a real estate license.
Michael Carleton, 61, was arrested early Tuesday. He immediately posted a $1,500 bond.
"I don't know what the charges were," Carleton said hours after being released. "I was just released at 11:30 a.m."
Carleton said he didn't know what federal charges he could be facing either.
"I have nothing to say because I don't even know what the charges are," Carleton said. "The last phone calls I made about that was months ago and as far as I know nothing is going to happen."
Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Real Estate, reported its investigation revealed unlicensed activity by Carleton.
A complaint filed March 15 by Bruce Nelson of Massachusetts spurred the investigation. Nelson received notification Carleton had received his letter with details of the complaint along with a complaint form, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Real Estate.
The Division of Real Estate notified State Attorney Ed Brodsky's office May 20 it had determined Carleton was operating without a license.
Carleton reportedly would advertise vacation rentals in the Anna Maria Island area, collect deposits and then cancel the visit a day before in a letter claiming the property was unavailable due to damage. Most people did not receive a refund, according to the report.
Carleton's Realtor license was suspended for a
year March 7 by the state of Florida after an investigation of a complaint alleging Carleton was paid $10,000 in 2012 as an escrow deposit for a property at 106 55th St. in Holmes Beach. The Real Estate Division said he put the money into an account belonging to Coast Line Accommodations, his beach property rental agency, and another Carleton-controlled company, rather than his registered employer, Coast Line Realtors, as part of his alleged scam.
More than 60 complaints have been filed against Carleton, according to the Holmes Beach Police Department.
The Holmes Beach Police Department handed over its investigation May 1 to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Alexandra Papageorge, a postal inspector based in Tampa, said the federal case is still ongoing.
"It has been accepted by the U.S. Attorney's Office," Papageorge said. "So I am working with an assistant U.S. attorney."
Papageorge said she hopes have a presentation for the Assistant U.S. Attorney's Office in the next few weeks.
"I do hope to have a resolution to it in the next future," Papageorge said.
Two of Carleton's victims filed civil lawsuits against him.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049.ter @JDeLeon1012.