Tampa Bay Area Woman Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Commit Wire Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft Related To COVID Unemployment Insurance Benefits | USAO-MDFL

Tampa, Florida –United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Melinda Sue Hernandez (33, Ruskin) has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for the conspiracy count, as well as a consecutive two years in federal prison for the aggravated identity theft count.

According to the plea agreement, from approximately June 2020, through April 2021, Hernandez and her co-defendant, Aloysius Moodie, Jr. (33, Tampa), obtained personal identifying information of others and used that information to submit, or caused to be submitted, false and 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 other persons. Hernandez and her co-defendant then used, and attempted to use, the fraudulently obtained debit cards to withdraw money from ATMs. Law enforcement calculated the total intended loss caused by the fraudulent UI claims at more than $1.5 million, but less than $3.5 million.

Moodie was indicted on March 29, 2022.

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and Department of Homeland Security Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory D. 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 https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus

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