Former model sent to prison for 7 years for Ponzi scheme

Tina Mangiardi admitted she was 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'

ORLANDO, Fla. - A woman who admitted to taking millions of dollars in an elaborate Ponzi scheme was sentenced Monday to 7 years in federal prison.

Tina Mangiardi entered a plea agreement in March after federal investigators caught on to her con game, which was based on investments into construction projects that did not exist.

Officials said Mangiardi's victims lost between $500 to $1 million.  Federal investigators place the total losses near $7 million.

Assistant United States Attorney David Haas is requesting that Mangiardi be forced to pay $4 million in restitution, but her attorney Monday argued that they do not agree the amount is that high.

Judge Gregory Presnell said he'd allow Haas and defense attorney Buck Blankner to delay the restitution hearing for a later date so they can come to an agreement.

Victims who appeared at the sentencing said they do not realistically think they will receive their money back.

More than 20 former friends, colleagues and even family members sat together on the left hand side of the courtroom, representing a portion of those she'd victimized.

David Vaughan spoke on behalf of his son, an Iraq war veteran, who gave Mangiardi $21,000 in cash under the guise that she could double his investment.

Vaughan said his son could not be there because he suffers from severe depression as a result of the incident and has been suicidal at times.

"Her grifter and deceptive behavior needs re-education, and prison for her is our only hope," said Kelly Maza, who met Mangiardi because their teenage daughters were friends.

Maza and her sister, Cathy Griffin,  ended up investing nearly $15,000 collectively into a supposed project to build a breast cancer facility for Florida Hospital.

According to Griffin, Mangiardi told her a sad tale about her own grandmother dying of breast cancer to plea for money to fund the project.

She told the judge how there was no project and a call to Florida Hospital's CEO confirmed that they'd never heard of Mangiardi. 

"Even sadder Tina, your grandmother did not die of breast cancer," Griffin said while looking directly at Mangiardi.

According to another victim, whose mother lost $75,000 in the scheme, Mangiardi tore their family apart. 

Many said they never got an apology or a sense of remorse.

Through tears, Mangiardi offered her victims that apology and admitted that she was "robbing Peter to pay Paul" to try to keep her business afloat.

She claimed she was never paid the balance of two very big jobs in 2009 and that led her into the fraudulent behavior.

She argued that her ex-husband had put liens on her credit file and that made it impossible for her to get loans from a bank. 

"I tried to hold on to my ego, when I should have filed bankruptcy," she said. 

Mangiardi went on to explain to the judge that making up a story to get their money was the only thing she knew how to do.

The government counter-argued that the loss Mangiardi suffered from losing the two contracts only totaled around $1 million, while she deceptively took four to five times that amount from dozens of victims.

Judge Gregory Presnell did not dismiss the severity of the crimes when giving his ruling. 

"On one hand, she has no prior record, but on the other I have considerable question about Ms. Mangiardi's moral compass," he said.

Mangiardi will have ten days to report to a federal prison once the bureau of prisons assigns her to a facility.

Monday she was able to walk out of the front door of the federal courthouse and leave with her mother and sister. 

There, she told Local 6's Mike Holfeld that she was pleased with the sentence, adding that she "will use the time as a vacation."

Watch her full interview by clicking here.

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