9 Investigates

Convicted sexual predator allowed to stay in hotel during cancer treatments

A convicted sexual predator who admitted to violating his probation was living in an Altamonte Springs hotel, instead of state prison.

Former chief judge and WFTV legal analyst Belvin Perry said the move to allow Michael Koffarnus a "furlough" on his sentence was as much about compassion as potential costs to taxpayers.

He was asked to leave the hotel last weekend after our story aired, Eyewitness News learned.

Guests at the Hawthorn Suites said they had no idea they were staying in the same hotel as a sexual predator who listed the location as his registered address.

“If there are people like that staying here, they should definitely let families know,” hotel guest Rick Okazaki said.

Koffarnus was put back behind bars after violating his probation on a 1996 sexual-battery charge, with a DUI, but the reason he is now staying in a hotel room instead of a prison cell isn’t special treatment.

“He has already had a sentence imposed on him higher than the powers invested in this court,” oncologist Roy Ambinder said in a court hearing on May 12.

Ambinder explained to the court that Koffarnus has a rare form of cancer that was discovered while he was waiting for trial and sentencing in the violation of probation case.

“Generally, there’s only about a 20 percent survival from diagnosis, within a year,” Ambinder said.

Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. agreed to grant the man a furlough on his sentence, which will allow him to stay in the hotel in Altamonte Springs while he completes his current round of chemotherapy.

“I'm not going to rob him of his best chance to get through this,” Lester said.

Under the rules of the court order, Koffarnus can only leave his hotel room to go to treatment or to the courthouse. He is wearing a GPS monitor and must check in for status hearings in court every two weeks.

Koffarnus served 14 years in state prison for the 1996 charge.  Since getting out five years ago, he’s been living with his aging parents in North Carolina and running a tire and car repair shop.  Now, his parents have to stay with him to make sure he stays in the hotel room at all times.

“I lived every day for those 21 years with that guilt.  I keep that as personal punishment, so I never forget the people that I hurt,” Koffarnus said in court May12.  His voice was strained from the cancer, which has had an impact on his breathing and throat.

Perry said he would have made the same decision on the furlough, saying compassion and the cost to taxpayers would have both played a part.

“He’s going to get treatment. The question is, who is going to pay for treatment?," Perry said. "Whether it’s the taxpayers or the guy’s own insurance company?"

Perry said furloughs on state prison sentences are extremely rare.

“If he’s going through chemo treatment, stuff like that, I would rather have him pay it than the taxpayers,” Okazaki said.

When Koffarnus completes his current treatment, he is expected to serve a sentence of 13 years in state prison, which is the rest of the time he was supposed to be on probation.

Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.

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