West Haven state rep. resigns from city job as criminal investigation into where COVID funding went continues

Politics

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — State Representative Mike DiMassa officially resigned Thursday from his city hall position as the administrative assistant to the council. The 30-year-old is free on a quarter-million dollar bond, charged with wire fraud in an alleged scheme to defraud his hometown of West Haven out of more than $600,000 in COVID relief CARES ACT money.

RELATED: State Rep. Michael DiMassa accused of defrauding City of West Haven of more than $630K

State records show, the business “Compass Investment Group, LLC” was formed in January 2021. In the affidavit, the FBI special agent wrote the business has two principals, Michael DiMassa and Person 1. Adding, the listed business address appears to be the home address of Person 1.

News 8 went to the address. The son of West Haven city employee John Bernardo answered the door. He has the same name as his father.

John Bernardo said, “He never says where he goes. He always keeps to himself. He was always like that, that’s why I honestly don’t know where he is.”

FBI special agents allege DiMassa and Person 1 set up a bank account and funneled CARES ACT COVID relief to “Compass Investment Group LLC.”

Authorities say those deposits caused the transmission of an interstate wire. Invoices to the city listed charges including hundreds of hours of consulting services that the feds say were never done.

RELATED: Lawmakers, officials react to Rep. Michael DiMassa’s arrest

News 8 went to the legal agent listed on the “Compass Investment Group LLC” business record. Attorney Joseph Fournier spoke on the phone with News 8’S Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina.

Attorney Fournier says, “I haven’t spoken to him in a little bit so I’m not really sure what’s going on. I really don’t feel comfortable talking about the client until I speak with him first.”

Latina asked, “You are aware that he was arrested yesterday by the FBI?”

Fournier responded, “I have no comment on that.”

Twenty-one cash withdrawals were allegedly made by DiMassa. The affidavit says Mohegan Sun Patron Gaming records reflect DiMassa executed a cash “Buy-In” of chips on two separate occasions for an estimated $15,000.

It’s unclear where the rest of the money is, leaving West Haven taxpayers concerned.

Renee Cullen asked, “Where is that money going to come from? Hopefully not the taxpayers.”

Citizen Paul DiMatteo was saddened by the revelations: “It’s shocking to see that happen in this day and age.”

Manny Garcia was blunt. “Sounds about right for someone who is a crook.”

Sources tell News 8 that the city hall offices of Bernardo and DiMassa are reportedly locked; no one is allowed in.

Court records show over a period of eight months, the city paid “Compass Investment Group” more than $636,000 for COVID work.

Mayor Nancy Rossi and the council voted back in December to put DiMassa and the finance director on CARES ACT COVID funding documents as her “mayor’s designee.”

“I am very angry and very sad that that money was used for someone else’s enjoyment, allegedly,” the mayor told us.

News 8 has also learned a state oversight board may not have signed off on the COVID payments as is required. West Haven is under a strict Tier 3 agreement with the state as part of municipal financial restructuring since 2017. An audit is underway.

The US Attorneys’ office says the investigation is ongoing. DiMassa is due back in court on Dec. 10.
Republican leaders at the Capitol are calling for a public hearing next week as to how COVID funding is being processed around the state given the West Haven case.

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