Former West Haven Employee and State Representative Admits Stealing COVID Relief and Other City Funds
Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, David Sundberg, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Christina D. Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced that MICHAEL DiMASSA, 31, of West Haven, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Omar A. Williams in Hartford to conspiracy charges stemming from his involvement in schemes that resulted in the theft of more than $1.2 million dollars in COVID relief funds and other funds from the City of West Haven.
According to court documents and statements made in court, DiMassa was a Connecticut State Representative who was also employed by the City of West Haven, most recently serving as the Administrative Assistant to the City Council. In April 2020, the State of Connecticut was allocated money by the U.S. Department of the Treasury through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (“CRF”), which was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) for the purpose of helping local governments pay costs incurred in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. From July 2020 through September 2021, the City of West Haven received approximately $1,150,257 in financial assistance from this fund. DiMassa, who was authorized to approve the designated relief funds for the reimbursement of COVID-related expenditures incurred by West Haven, 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.
In one scheme, DiMassa conspired with John Bernardo, who was employed by the City of West Haven as a Housing Specialist in the office of Community Development Administration. In January 2021, DiMassa and Bernardo formed Compass Investment Group, LLC. Beginning in February 2021, Compass Investment Group LLC fraudulently billed the City of West Haven and its “COVID-19 Grant Department” for consulting services purportedly provided to the West Haven Health Department that were not performed. From February 2021 through September 2021, the City of West Haven paid Compass Investment Group a total of $636,783.70. DiMassa made several large cash withdrawals from the Compass Investment Group LLC bank account, some of which were made shortly before or after he was recorded as having made a large cash “buy-in” of gaming chips at the Mohegan Sun Casino.
DiMassa also conspired with his now wife, Lauren DiMassa, through the submission of numerous fraudulent invoices to West Haven for services related to a Youth Violence Prevention Program and for Youth Violence COVID-19 Associated Expenses. These invoices listed charges for in-home counseling, cleaning supplies, special needs hourly service, wi-fi assistance for low/moderate income families, counseling services, license fees, a fall youth clinic, meals, support group supplies, equipment rental, and youth clinic support group. West Haven made at least 16 payments totaling approximately $147,776.10 to Lauren DiMassa, who never provided any services to the City of West Haven.
In a third scheme, DiMassa conspired with another individual through the submission of fraudulent invoices from companies, which were controlled by DiMassa’s co-conspirator, to West Haven for goods and services, including thousands of units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), HVAC maintenance at multiple municipal locations, COVID supplies for the Board of Education, and cleaning services for various municipal and school buildings, including one school building that had been vacant and abandoned for several years. The co-conspirator’s companies received approximately $431,982 through this scheme.
DiMassa has agreed to pay restitution of $1,216,541.80.
DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years on each count. A sentencing date is not scheduled.
DiMassa has been released on a $250,000 bond since his arrest on October 20, 2021.
Bernardo and Lauren DiMassa each previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. They await sentencing.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General for Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ray Miller and David Sheldon.
Individuals with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 are encouraged to report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.