HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A judge sentenced a former state representative to 27 months behind bars and five years of supervised release for stealing more than $1.2 million of West Haven’s COVID-19 relief money.
Michael DiMassa, 32, a West Haven Democrat, pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud conspiracy in November 2022. It was part of a scheme that involved stealing more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 funds from West Haven.
During his sentencing, DiMassa expressed remorse for what he did, saying he was ashamed, embarrassed and mortified.
“To the residents, to the constituents I have stolen this money from: they deserve my apology; the state of Connecticut deserves my apology,” he said. “My former colleagues deserve my apology.”
DiMassa acknowledged the pain and anger he caused.
“Words don’t do it justice, you know? I hope to follow all the guidelines imposed by the court, serve my time, and try and turn this into a positive influence for others when I get out to be aware of and things not to do,” he said.
The judge also ordered DiMassa to pay $865,844.45 in restitution and said he must pay $40,000 yearly during the five years of supervised release. He has to surrender by July 31 to whichever facility the Department of Corrections decides.
“The Bureau of Prisons now decides what classification he would have, what level of prison he would be in, and the closest to where he resides,” said John Gulash, DiMassa’s attorney. “That could be Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey.”
The scheme began in 2020 when DiMassa was a state representative and an aide to the West Haven City Council. In this role, he had the authority to approve coronavirus-related expenses. An investigation revealed he conspired with three others — his wife, Lauren DiMassa, business partner and former city employee John Bernardo, and business owner John Trasacco — to steal this money through fraudulent invoices and subsequent payment for goods and services that were never provided, including PPE, COVID-19 supplies, and cleaning.
Lauren DiMassa, Bernardo and Trasacco will also serve time behind bars and ordered to pay restitution to make up the rest of the stolen money.
“It has harmed every aspect of our city of West Haven,” Mayor Nancy Rossi said, adding she expected the impact of this will be felt for years to come.
“All of his ‘I’m sorrys’ now… is too little too late,” Rossi said. “It’s already done. It’s already damaged. We’re going to have to wait a very long time in West Haven for this to all come around.”
DiMassa faced 41 to 51 months behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines but asked the judge for leniency.
The judge acknowledged his remorse and helped to prosecute his co-defendants, saying those efforts didn’t go unrecognized.
As for where the money went, DiMassa spent a good chunk of it on betting and gambling.