Her story seemed too good to be true.
She’s a former model and a single mother who had successfully started a construction and design business from scratch. Within a few years she was landing jobs with some of the biggest companies in Central Florida.
She drove high-end cars and lived in a luxurious high-rise condominium in downtown Orlando. Her daughter was able to attend private schools.
Her success was due in part to her investors who would generously help her secure bid bonds for multi-million dollar projects. In return for their generosity, when she secured the project she would pay them back handsomely. The return on their loan would come back double and sometimes even higher.
The truth is, Tina Louise Mangiardi, the one-time President of TLM Design and Construction, Inc. could be spending years in federal prison.
Mangiardi pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and wire fraud in a plea arrangement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida.
The agreement details a $2.5 to $7 million Ponzi scheme that took place from 2009 through 2012 throughout Central Florida.
Local 6 has also been in contact with several victims who invested in Mangiardi’s scheme within the last few months.
In total, federal investigators said they have heard from at least 40 victims of the scheme who were sold on the pitch that she needed bid-bond money to secure projects with Disney, Darden and most recently Florida Hospital.
Documents detail what several victims confirm. She would ask for cash very quickly and promise to get them the return on their investment in a very short amount of time.
Mangiardi promised huge interest returns but either avoided them after defaulting on her loan or issued bad checks.
Representatives at Disney and Florida Hospital said they never heard of Mangiardi.
Darden Restaurants said TLM did a small remodeling job for them on a support facility back in 2009, but has never bid on a contract big enough to require bond money upfront.
Many of Mangiardi’s victims were former business associates and most of them were men. However, several women and even close personal friends of Mangiardi said they fell victim to the con-woman.
“I trusted her with my daughter to go on vacation. I trusted her completely,” said Kelly Maza, who claimed she met Mangiardi 11 years ago when their children were in elementary school.
The girls were best friends through high school so when Mangiardi came to Maza for money in January she did not hesitate.
“She knew I had money issues. She knew I was selling my possessions online to make extra cash,” said Maza, who claimed the enticement of being able to double her $4,500 loan seemed like good idea.
Maza gave her the money in cash and even got her sister to invest another $10,000 with Mangiardi. The women soon realized that they had been her latest victims when they came across an online article detailing the construction con game.
“I literally threw up for 24 hours,” said Maza, who asked Mangiardi for the money back almost immediately and then went to authorities when she realized she was never getting it back.
Other victims were first wooed by her seemingly professional and successful lifestyle before handing over the entirety of their savings.
“She would come in and spend two, three or four hundred dollars on a lunch,” said Jessie Perez, who works as a server at a Longhorn Steakhouse that Mangiardi would frequent.
Mangiardi got to know Perez and when she heard that the young mother had a live-in partner who was in the construction business the conversations become more personal.
“When she found out about what Gina did, it become I want to bless you and the kids,” she said.
Gina Travez said she does IT construction contracting, and when Mangiradi starting name dropping she started getting interested.
“She was naming people within Disney that only I would know, only people in the business would know,” said Travez.