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2 more arrested in ex-lawmaker's COVID relief fraud case

All four, who live in West Haven, face conspiracy and fraud charges.

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — Two more people were arrested Friday in a federal criminal case involving a former Connecticut state representative accused of stealing federal pandemic relief funds from the city of West Haven while he was working as an aide to the city council.

A newly released, six-count federal grand jury indictment accuses former Democratic Rep. Michael DiMassa, his wife Lauren Knox and two others of conspiring to steal more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds and other money from the city. DiMassa and his former business associate, John Bernardo, had previously been charged with stealing $600,000.

All four, who live in West Haven, face conspiracy and fraud charges.

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On Friday, Knox, 37, and John Trasacco, 50, a business owner, were arrested for the first time in connection with the case. They both appeared before a federal magistrate 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. Both were released on bond pending trial.

DiMassa and Bernardo, a former West Haven city employee, appeared virtually in court, each pleading not guilty to charges of wire fraud stemming from a previous charge filed in October of allegedly stealing more than $600,000 by using fraudulent invoices submitted to the city through a company they formed in January 2021 called Compass Investment Group LLC.

Messages were left seeking comment with attorneys for DiMassa and Bernardo. A message was left on Knox's cell phone and an email was sent to Trasacco seeking comment.

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The city of West Haven had received more than $1.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds between July 2020 and September 2021.

The indictment released Friday alleges 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.”

The indictment alleges 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, including one school building that had been vacant for years.

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

Also, DiMassa and Knox, who are now married, are 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 to totaling approximately $147,776 to Knox, who never provided any services to the city.

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