Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that LAUREN DiMASSA, formerly known as LAUREN KNOX, 38, of West Haven, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Omar A. Williams in Hartford to six months of imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release, for participating in a scheme to steal COVID-19 relief funds from the City of West Haven. Judge Williams also ordered DiMassa to serve the first six months of her supervised release in home confinement and to pay $147,776.10 in restitution.
According to court documents and statements made in court, 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. Lauren DiMassa’s now husband, Michael DiMassa, was employed by the City of West Haven, most recently serving as the Administrative Assistant to the City Council, and was also a Connecticut State Representative. Michael DiMassa, who was authorized to approve the designated relief funds for the reimbursement of COVID-related expenditures incurred by West Haven, conspired with Lauren DiMassa, John Bernardo, and John Trasacco 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.
Between approximately July 2020 and October 2021, Michael DiMassa submitted 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. The payment vouchers requested that checks be made out to directly to Lauren DiMassa.
West Haven made 16 payments totaling approximately $147,776.10 to Lauren DiMassa, who never provided any services to the City of West Haven. Michael and Lauren DiMassa used the proceeds for their own benefit.
Lauren DiMassa was arrested on February 18, 2022. On July 14, 2022, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Lauren DiMassa, who is released on a $50,000 bond, is required to report to prison on May 23.
On November 1, 2022, Michael DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is awaiting sentencing and has agreed to pay restitution of $1,216,541.80.
On June 14, 2022, Bernardo, a West Haven city employee who with Michael DiMassa formed a company that they used to bill the city for fraudulent COVID-related consulting services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On March 22, 2023, he was sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment and ordered to pay $58,927.25 in restitution.
On December 2, 2022, a jury found Trasacco, whose companies received approximately $431,982 through this scheme, guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. He is awaiting sentencing.
This matter has been 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.