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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Connecticut Democrat to be sentenced for stealing more than $1.2 million, including federal coronavirus aid

Former Connecticut state Rep. Michael DiMassa is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Wednesday concerning the theft of more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven. 

DiMassa, 32, a West Haven Democrat, pleaded guilty in November to three counts of wire fraud conspiracy with most of the funds being taken fraudulently from federal coronavirus-related aid to fuel a gambling addiction, according to court documents. At the time, he admitted he and others wrote invoices for the city of West Haven for fraudulent legal, lobbying and consulting services. These services were never provided.

DiMassa’s lawyer John Gulash said in a court filing that his client lacked “impulse control” as he suffered from a gambling addiction.

“Mr. DiMassa suffered from a debilitating gambling addiction at the time of the offense and his essentially unfettered access to a deep pool of federal funds and total lack of impulse control facilitated his precipitous downward spiral,” he wrote.

The theft began in mid-2020 when serving on the city council, he had the authority to approve coronavirus-related reimbursements.

DiMassa and a business partner, John Bernardo, also a former West Haven city employee, stole nearly $637,000, prosecutors said.

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A third scheme involved DiMassa and his wife, Lauren DiMassa.

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The couple stole nearly $148,000, authorities said, by submitting phony requests for payments by the city.

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“The defendant was a public official elected to serve his constituents. Instead, he completely betrayed that trust by stealing public funds for his own benefit,” prosecutors wrote, sentencing documents show.

DiMassa was arrested in 2021. He subsequently resigned from the Legislature and the West Haven city council.

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