Former Model Gets 7-Year Sentence For $7 Million Ponzi Scheme

A Florida woman was sentenced to serve seven years in federal prison for concocting a $7 million Ponzi scheme masquerading as a construction company.  Tina Louise Mangiardi, a former model, received the sentence after previously pleading guilty in in March 2013 to one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud in a plea agreement reached with Orlando prosecutors.  Mangiardi could have potentially faced up to 40 years in prison if sentenced to the statutory maximum for each count.  Mangiardi was also ordered to pay restitution to investors; the exact amount will be determined at a later hearing.

Mangiardi was the principal of two Orlando businesses, T.L.M. Builders & Design, LLC, and Tlm Design and Construction, Inc.  Beginning in or around 2008, Mangiardi began pitching potential investors to invest in "bid bonds" for various Orlando-area projects, including restaurant chains, local hospitals, and even Disney.  A bid bond, which is not considered investment grade, is used to guarantee the financial viability and amount of a bid given by a construction company, and is typically issued by insurers.  In return for this authentication, the contractor would usually must pay a small fee to the insurance company. Mangiardi explained that she could double or triple investors' money within weeks, and lured investors by stressing her strong Christian faith and explaining that her gender would allow her to qualify as a minority in bidding for government contracts.  Based on these promises, Mangiardi raised millions of dollars from at least 40 Orlando-area victims - many of whom, according to authorities, were male business associates.

However, complaints soon began mounting when scheduled payments fell behind, and at one point the U.S. Secret Service began an investigation.  Court records show at least eight lawsuits against Mangiardi and her companies since 2010, with $1.4 million in judgments obtained to date.  Mangiardi was arrested and later pleaded guilty in March 2013.  Interestingly, before pleading guilty, Mangiardi had a series of exchanges with The Ledger, a Lakeland, FL area newspaper, in which she maintained her innocence, blasted those who had sought repayment of their loans, and even maintained that she was in possession of agreements that provided that any investor "talking or defaming me and my company causes instant void of payment plans and forfeit of payments."

Shortly after Mangiardi pleaded guilty in March 2013, her name appeared again in news reports - this time as a victim of an alleged encounter with a victim of her scheme.  According to authorities, Mangiardi visited a Longwood, FL gym owned by Adam Pollock, who had invested in her venture.  Upon her arrival, Pollock allegedly tried to "get even" with Mangiardi by pulling a knife on her and threatening to cut off her fingers and toes as "collateral."  Pollock was subsequently arrested on multiple charges, including felony battery by strangulation, kidnapping/false imprisonment, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and battery.  Trial is scheduled on the charges for early October, with jury selection set for October 7, 2013. Ironically, if convicted, it is possible that Pollock's sentence could exceed Mangiardi's sentence.