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Press Release

Tampa Man Sentenced For Conspiracy To Commit COVID-Related Unemployment Insurance Fraud And Identity Theft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Barber has sentenced Mehdi Tazi (29, Tampa) to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and a substantive count of aggravated identity theft. Tazi entered a guilty plea on February 2, 2024. As part of his sentence, the court also ordered Tazi to pay $1,070,647 in restitution, jointly with his co-conspirators who were previously sentenced for the below listed offenses.

Name (Age, City)


Sentence Imposed

Steve Aloysius Moodie Jr.

(36, Tampa)

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft

5 years, 10 months

Tyree Wingfield

(26, Dade City)

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and aggravated identity theft 5 years, 10 months

Melinda Sue Hernandez

(35, Sun City Center)

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and  aggravated identity theft 3 years, 6 months

According to court documents, from approximately June 2020 through April 2021, the conspirators obtained personal identifying information (PII) of others without their knowledge. Hernandez was employed as a medical assistant at a Tampa Bay area hospital and gained access to patient PII, which she shared with Moodie. Thereafter, Tazi, Moodie, and Wingfield used that PII and that of others to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance (UI) claims to various state workforce agencies to obtain UI benefits. These UI benefits were then transferred to bank accounts or loaded onto debit cards issued in the names of others. Tazi, Moodie, Wingfield, and Hernandez then used the fraudulently obtained debit cards to withdraw money from ATMs and for other personal items. Law enforcement calculated the total intended loss caused by the fraudulent UI claims to be between $1.5 million and $3.5 million.

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Greg Pizzo.

In March 2020, the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which expanded states’ ability to provide UI for many workers impacted by COVID-19, including for workers who were not ordinarily eligible for benefits.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit

Updated May 22, 2024

Disaster Fraud
Financial Fraud
Identity Theft