WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Former Democratic state representative Michael DiMassa changed his plea Tuesday morning in federal court in Hartford.
DiMassa plead guilty to the federal felony charges that he stole $1.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief money from the City of West Haven.
From July 2020 through September 2021, West Haven received approximately $1.2 million in financial assistance from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. DiMassa had been authorized to approve the designated relief funds for the reimbursement of COVID-related expenditures. He conspired with others to steal funds from the city.
The federal criminal case was first filed against him last year.
DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He has been released on a $250,000 bond since his arrest in October of 2021.
When DiMassa walked out of court, he was asked if he wanted to say anything to the residents of West Haven, and he responded, “no.”
John Gulash, DiMassa’s defense attorney, spoke to the media after Tuesday’s court appearance.
“In court, he readily admitted his wrongdoing and entered pleas to the appropriate charges,” Gulash said. “There’s a modest adjustment for someone who accepts responsibility in a timely manner, which he did, so otherwise, it’s a relatively standard…mainly the guidelines are the guidelines.”
In court, the judge ordered DiMassa to pay $1.2 million in restitution. He also faces potential additional penalties of as much as $2.5 million.
Gulash said DiMassa will not be able to pay that in full by his sentencing as DiMassa says the stolen funds are “gone.”
There’s a modest adjustment for someone who accepts responsibility in a timely manner, which he did,” Gulash said. “I think that at the time of sentencing, it would be an appropriate time for him to address all those issues and I’m sure he will want an opportunity to address the court.”
West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi released a statement to News 8 saying, “Since these incidents happened, there are many more additional internal controls in place, also there have been many changes in personnel in Finance and other departments.”
A sentencing date has not been scheduled at this time.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Miller said DiMassa is facing between 41 to 51 months behind bars.
An additional former West Haven employee, John Bernardo, and DiMassa’s wife, Lauren, each previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme. They are both awaiting sentencing.
“Hopefully now that Mr. DiMassa and two others have pleaded guilty, leaving only one person left who has pleaded not guilty, the city of West haven will be able to move forward,” Mayor Nancy Rossi said in a written statement. “Since these incidents happened, there are many additional internal controls in place. There have also been many changes in personnel in Finance and other departments. West Haven is trying to put this behind us and move forward.”