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West Haven employee arrested on wire fraud charges

The U.S. Attorney's office announced Thursday that John Bernardo of West Haven was arrested on a federal criminal complaint.

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — Another West Haven city employee has been arrested on federal charges on Thursday, officials announced. 

John Bernardo, of West Haven, was arrested on Wire Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney's office announced. He appeared in court Thursday. 

Bernardo works for the West Haven Community Development Administration as a housing specialist. The warrant states that he is currently on leave from that position. 

"I can tell you that Mr. Bernardo has an impeccable record," said attorney Tara Knight, Bernardo's lawyer. "He’s never been arrested. 65 years old. Former firefighter, injured in the line of duty and we need this to play out in the court."

Last month, former State Rep. Michael DiMassa of West Haven was arrested after he was accused of stealing more than $600,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.

Bernardo and DiMassa were principals in the firm Compass Investment Group.

Mayor Nancy R. Rossi has released a statement: 

“As we continue forward with the investigation into this alleged horrific crime, I am happy to see that those suspected of wrongdoing and fraud are being held accountable for their actions. I am sick to my stomach over this alleged theft, and I want all those individuals involved to be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If found guilty, they need to go to jail. As I stated early on when I found and reported this probable fraudulent activity, I will continue to update our residents when information becomes available and when its release will not compromise the ongoing investigation.”

"Unfortunately our city continues to be negatively impacted by the complete lack of oversight by Nancy Rossi and her administration," said Barry Lee Cohen, the Republican mayoral challenger.

Cohen had been a member of the West Haven City Council when they granted oversight of federal COVID relief funding to three individuals: the mayor, finance director and DiMassa.

Officials detailed in the warrant that from February to September 2021, multiple fraudulent invoices payable to Compass for a total of $636,783.70 were submitted to the city to be paid for work related to COVID-19 that was not performed. 

The warrant states, "According to the West Haven Corporation Counsel, the West Haven Health Director never used, selected, approved, or otherwise engaged Compass Investment Group for any work or services concerning the West Haven Public Health Department."

Officials said checks from Compass amounting to $45,227.25 were deposited in Bernardo's personal account.

RELATED: State Rep. Michael DiMassa accused of taking $636,000 in federal relief funds from West Haven

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DiMassa, a Democrat who formerly represented House District 116, was charged with one count of wire fraud in connection to a federal investigation into the alleged misuse of CARES Act funds given to the city of West Haven. Official allege DiMassa stole more than $636,000.

DiMoassa, who also worked for the city of West Haven as an administrative assistant to the city council, resigned last month from both of his roles.

RELATED: State Rep. Michael DiMassa resigns after allegedly taking $636,000 in federal relief funds from West Haven

"Everybody needed to learn something. The City Council, the mayor, the finance department," said said Bridgette Hoskie, a member of the City Council.

In a federal criminal complaint, officials alleged DiMassa and another unnamed person formed Compass Investment Group, LLC in January 2021. They said an investigation into a bank account with Webster Bank for the investment group showed that seven checks from the city were made payable to the group.

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

Tony Terzi is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tterzi@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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