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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Arrest made in mortgage fraud case
A man is in jail after a three-year inquiry.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published July 19, 2007
TAMPA - State investigators arrested a Lithia man Wednesday in a multimillion-dollar racketeering mortgage fraud case, the result of a three-year probe into the former mortgage broker.
Scott A. Almeida, 31, of 15902 Sorawater Drive, is accused of obtaining mortgages under false pretenses, according to his attorney, Todd Foster.
Almeida faces charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, seven counts of grand theft and six counts of obtaining a mortgage by false representation, jail records show.
He was booked into the Hillsborough County jail at 11:02 a.m. and remained there into the evening on $875,000 bail.
Almeida's jail record shows a co-defendent in the case, Adrienne Lee White, 37, but she did not appear in Hillsborough arrest reports.
FDLE spokeswoman Trena Reddick declined to comment on the case, saying only that investigators were working into the night on it. Further information will be presented today at an 11 a.m. news conference.
Almeida declined to comment, but his attorney said his client is accused of submitting false loans to Argent Mortgage.
Argent Mortgage, a California-based wholesale mortgage company that works with independent mortgage brokers, has contacted customers affected by the fraud case and resolved the issues, said company spokesman Chris Orlando.
"Any money they may have lost to Scott, we have repaired the problem," he said, declining to go into further detail, other than to say that Argent "has zero tolerance for fraud."
When the investigation began, Almeida had a mortgage company in Tampa, Foster said. Three years later, Almeida now works for his father, Foster said. Almeida's family could not be reached.
His arrest Wednesday came on a warrant for Polk County, but Foster said the FDLE has accused Almeida of criminal activity in multiple counties.
Almeida has been arrested two other times in Florida, state records show. In 1998, Hillsborough deputies accused him of armed trafficking in cocaine and possession of ecstasy and steroids, but the case was dropped.
In 1998, he was also accused of domestic battery. The resolution of that case was unclear.
White has no criminal record in Florida.
One Tampa man said he almost lost his home when Almeida helped him get a mortgage. Ivan Rojas, 39, said he nearly sued Almeida, and spent months trying to understand what went wrong, but he decided that Almeida wasn't to blame.
"Scott opens up his heart to anybody, and he gets screwed," Rojas said. "We fixed up our problem because we found out he was not the problem."
News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.