by WorldTribune Staff, July 15, 2022
A former Connecticut Democrat state representative and his wife have been charged with the theft of more than $600,000 in federal Covid relief funds.
Former state Rep. Michael DiMassa and his wife Lauren DiMassa were charged with pilfering the funds from the city of West Haven.
Michael DiMassa, who also served as an aide to the West Haven City Council, resigned from both political positions after his arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges.
Prosecutors allege Michael DiMassa used his city position, which included approving the reimbursement of Covid expenditures, to steal the money, in part to finance gambling at the Mohegan Sun Casino, The Associated Press reported.
Lauren DiMassa pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy in U.S. District Court in Hartford. Sentencing has not been scheduled. She remains free on bail.
Federal prosecutors said West Haven paid Lauren DiMassa, formerly known as Lauren Knox, nearly $148,000 for services she never provided to the city. She and her husband were accused of submitting fraudulent invoices to the city for coronavirus-related services including youth violence prevention, but instead they used the money for their own benefit, prosecutors said.
Last month, Michael DiMassa’s former business partner, John Bernardo, who served as a housing specialist for the city, pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for his role in the theft.
A fourth person charged in the case, business owner John Trasacco, has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say Trasacco is linked to fraudulent invoices submitted to the city for Covid-related services that were never provided.