WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A former City of West Haven employee pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud stemming from his role in a scheme to steal COVID-19 relief funds from the city, according to the Department of Justice.
According to court documents and statements made in court, John Bernardo, 66, was employed by the City of West Haven as a housing specialist in the office of Community Development Administration.
In October 2021, former Democratic State Rep. Michael DiMassa of West Haven was arrested on a federal complaint for allegedly defrauding the City of West Haven for $636,783.70. DiMassa, 30, resigned from his position of administrative assistant to the West Haven City Council just days later.
DiMassa allegedly formed Compass Investment Group, LLC with Bernardo in January 2021, according to federal prosecutors. From February 2021 through September 2021, federal prosecutors said 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.
A few weeks after DiMassa’s arrest, Bernardo was arrested in connection to the case. Bernardo pleaded not guilty in February to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and wire fraud in connection to an investigation of the use of COVID relief funds in the city, according to the Department of Justice.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said the city paid Compass Investment Group a total of $636,783.70 from February 2021 through September 2021. Bernardo received a portion of the funds, federal prosecutors said.
Bernardo faces a maximum of 30 years in prison. He was released on $250,000 pending sentencing, which is not scheduled.
DiMassa and the others charged in the case pleaded not guilty in February.