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Former State Rep. admits to stealing $1.2M of West Haven's COVID funds

DiMassa, along with three others, were charged in connection with an alleged scheme to steal $1.2 million from West Haven's COVID-19 relief funds.

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — Former State Rep. and city employee Michael DiMassa pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he stole more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds awarded to the city of West Haven.

DiMassa is facing between 41-51 months in prison and a fine of up to $2.4 million. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

He has agreed to pay restitution of $1,216,541.80.

A six-count federal grand jury indictment accused DiMassa, his wife Lauren DiMassa and two others of conspiring to embezzle the federal grant money by creating dummy invoices and directing payments from the city to sham companies they created.

Michael DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Had DiMassa opted to go to trial, each of the three counts he admitted guilt to could've carried a maximum penalty of 30 years of imprisonment.

In a statement to FOX61 Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Nancy Rossi (D-West Haven) said,

“Hopefully, now that Mr DiMassa and two others have pleaded guilty, leaving only one person left that has pleaded not guilty, the City of West Haven will be able to move forward.

"Since these incidents happened, there are many more additional internal controls in place. There also have been many changes in personnel in Finance and other departments.

West Haven is trying to put this behind us and move forward. Within the last week the City has had ribbon cuttings for two new businesses and more are coming. West Haven is a great place to live, work and open a business!! Let’s move forward!”

The indictment alleged that DiMassa, who was authorized to approve reimbursement of COVID-related expenditures in his position with the city, conspired with the three 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.”

"Just hearing about this man stealing what could've been given to people that really needed it was just criminal," said Steven Daniels of West Haven.

When asked if he had any message to deliver to the residents of West Haven, DiMassa did not answer. But his attorney did.

"My client will not be making a statement today," said attorney John Gulash. "He will certainly have an opportunity to address the court and give appropriate comments at the appropriate time."

One West Haven business owner said she doesn't understand how DiMassa could think he was going to get away with it.

"Especially on COVID everybody was home and nobody was making money and he had the bright idea to steal from everybody," said Ricarda Magana, the owner of Brito's Grocery Store. "That's so stupid."

RELATED: Wife of former West Haven city employee pleads guilty to stealing COVID funds

DiMassa and his former business partner and West Haven employee John Bernardo formed Compass Investment Group LLC in January 2021. According to officials, the company fraudulently billed the city of West Haven and its COVID-19 Grant Department for consulting services to the city's health department that were not performed.

The city of West Haven paid the group a total of $636,783.70 between February and September 2021.

The indictment also alleged DiMassa and Trasacco conspired to submit fraudulent invoices through two entities controlled by Trasacco — L&H Company and JIL Sanitation Services — for goods and services the city never received, including thousands of units of PPE, HVAC maintenance at multiple municipal locations, COVID-related supplies for the city's Board of Education and cleaning services for various municipal and school buildings.

One of the school buildings had been vacant for years.

The indictment says both companies received approximately $431,982.

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DiMassa had previously pled not guilty to the charges and changed his plea on Tuesday.

Bernardo had pled guilty back in June on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to the scheme.

Lauren DiMassa, 38, entered her guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before a judge in Hartford in July. 

John Trasacco, 50, a business owner, was arrested for the first time in connection with the case in February 2022 along with Lauren.

They both appeared before a federal magistrate at the time and pleaded not guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud stemming from two separate alleged schemes involving DiMassa, the New Haven Register reported at the time.

RELATED: West Haven's finances now under highest level of state scrutiny

DiMassa and Lauren were also accused in the indictment of submitting numerous fraudulent invoices for services related to youth violence programs, including counseling services, meals, support group supplies and Wi-Fi assistance for low-to-moderate-income families.

The indictment says the city of West Haven made at least 16 payments totaling approximately $147,776 to Lauren, who never provided any services to the city.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that DiMassa's sentencing date has not yet been determined.

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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