Former Connecticut lawmaker to report to federal prison for stealing $1.2M in COVID funds

PHOTO: In this Nov. 1, 2022 file photo Former State Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at US District Court in Hartford with his attorney John Gulash.PlayJessica Hill/Hartford Courant via AP, FILE
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A former Connecticut lawmaker is expected to turn himself over to authorities on Monday to begin serving a federal prison sentence for COVID fraud.

Michael DiMassa, 32, the former state representative who served West Haven -- just outside of New Haven -- was sentenced earlier this year to 27 months in prison after stealing $1.2 million in COVID relief and other funds from the city.

DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud last month. He is required to pay nearly $866,000 in restitution and, following prison, will serve five years of supervised release, during which he is expected to perform 100 hours of community service, according to court documents.

He is also required to participate in programs for gambling addiction treatment and mental health treatment upon release, the documents show.

DiMassa was originally set to report to prison on July 31 but a judge postponed his surrender date twice so he could take care of his newborn baby until his wife, Lauren DiMassa, was released from prison, according to local ABC News affiliate WTNH.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut said that between July 2020 and September 2021, while serving as a state representative and city employee, Michael DiMassa was authorized to approve reimbursements of COVID costs incurred by West Haven using funds from the federal government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

PHOTO: In this Nov. 1, 2022 file photo Former State Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at US District Court in Hartford with his attorney John Gulash. Jessica Hill/Hartford Courant via AP, FILE
In this Nov. 1, 2022 file photo Former State Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at US District Court in Hartford with his attorney John Gulash.

During this period, he "conspired with others to steal these funds and other West Haven funds through the submission of fraudulent invoices, and subsequent payment, for COVID relief goods and services that were never provided," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Michael DiMassa and his wife billed the city for a youth violence prevention program and for "Youth Violence COVID-19 Associated Expenses" with invoices that included in-home home counseling, special needs hourly services, a fall youth clinic, Wi-Fi assistance for low- and moderate-income families, equipment rentals, licensing fees, meals and cleaning supplies. The couple received more than $147,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Lauren DiMassa pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison. She was released in October and is currently in home confinement, according to WTNH.

In another instance, Michael DiMassa and John Bernardo, a former West Haven housing specialist, formed a company and fraudulently billed the city and its "COVID-19 Grant Department" for consulting services provided to the West Haven Health Department that were never performed, according to court documents.

Between February 2021 and September 2021, the city paid the company more than $636,000. Michael DiMassa made several large cash withdrawals from the company's bank account, some occurring around the same time he executed a cash "buy-in" of gaming chips at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, court documents show.

Michael DiMassa also conspired with West Haven businessman John Trasacco to fraudulently bill the city through two companies, both owned by Trasacco, for goods and services provided, including delivering personal protective equipment; maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units; delivering COVID supplies to the Board of Education; and cleaning school buildings, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

One of those school buildings that was allegedly cleaned had been vacant and abandoned for years, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Trasacco's companies received more than $431,000 as a result of the scheme.

Bernardo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in June 2022 and was sentenced to 13 months in prison in March 2023. Trasacco was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud in December 2022 and was sentenced to eight years in prison in April 2023.