At one point, Victor Frias, the man who had been defrauded, went to the company's office and confronted Almeida's boss, Frank Giffone.
That only made things worse, Frias said. ''We went around and around, and finally he said he wasn't going to give me the money back because I went to the consumer department.''
In late October, Olsen got Giffone's lawyer on the phone. After their conversation, Olsen made the following notation in his investigative file: 'He hoped that Frank [Mr. Giffone] would `make it right for all who are involved' and he said that there were quite a few involved. He would not comment further.''
The next day, Olsen checked state records and saw that Giffone and Almeida were licensed mortgage brokers. He thought he had found the answer. Get the licenses revoked and put the men out of business until the police and courts could deal with them.
A few days later, Olsen's boss sent a summary of his investigative report to the OFR, records show. Again, regulators took no action.
Almeida kept his license for almost a year, long enough to scam more than $1 million from 12 other victims, including former boxer Calvin Washington.
He had been unable to work since he suffered a head injury in the ring in the 1980s, said Hillsborough Consumer Protection Agency investigator Robert Robillard.
Washington lived with his mother, Barbara Spann, in a modest Winter Haven house.
In October 2004, one of Almeida's salesmen showed up and said he represented a government program that helps disabled and elderly homeowners, Spann said.
He offered a refinancing deal that would reduce Washington's mortgage payments and provide nearly $26,000 cash for a new bathroom, new floors and handicap ramps for the front and back doors.
''My son said, 'Mommy, it's going to be a paradise,' '' Spann said.
The work never got done.
Almeida's crew removed burglar bars from some ground-floor windows and power-washed the house, prepping it for the appraisal photo required by the bank, court records show.
That was the last that Washington and Spann saw of them.
The $25,961 that was supposed to go to the renovations wound up in one of Almeida's bank accounts.
Another victim, Rita Gatlin of Bartow, agreed to a new mortgage that would generate $40,949 to pay for a new bedroom and bathroom. Her check also went into one of Almeida's accounts, with Gatlin's signature forged on the back, court records show.
The same day Gatlin's money was deposited, Sept. 20, 2004, Almeida wrote himself a check from the account for $2,000. Orson Benn, Almeida's contact at Argent Mortgage Co. in New York, which financed the loan, got a check for $3,000. It was one of many kickbacks Almeida sent Benn for approving questionable loan applications, court records show.
Benn is in the Polk County jail, awaiting trial on racketeering charges.
Almeida wrote at least one more check from that account, $12,000 to buy his fiancée a 1 ½-carat diamond engagement ring, court records show.
Gatlin, the borrower, got next to nothing. One day, some Almeida employees showed up and power-washed her house. She said she never saw them again.
POLICE STEP IN
In 2005, the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency got three more disturbing complaints about Almeida.
Still frustrated by the OFR's lack of action, Hillsborough investigators reached out to the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said the Hillsborough agency's chief investigator, Kevin Jackson. Their joint investigation led to a wide-ranging racketeering indictment and guilty pleas. Almeida confessed to fleecing 30 people for $2.8 million.