According to ABC News, an ex-lawmaker from Connecticut was expected to turn himself in to authorities on December 4, 2023, to start serving a federal prison sentence for wire fraud.
Former state representative Michael DiMassa, 32, had pleaded guilty to 3 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in November 2022, having been arrested on October 20, 2021. (He resigned from Connecticut’s House of Representatives 5 days later.)
DiMassa was convicted of stealing a total of $1.2 million in COVID-19 relief money as well as additional funds from the city of West Haven.
Both DiMassa and his wife received prison sentences for the crime
Earlier this year, DiMassa, whose district included West Haven, received his wire-fraud punishment. Court documents indicate that the former lawmaker was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
He must also pay nearly $866,000 in restitution and, after serving his prison sentence, must serve 5 years of supervised release (probation). During that time, he must also perform 100 hours of community service.
And that’s not all. Under his sentencing terms, after he’s released from prison, DiMassa must participate in programs for treating gambling addiction.
He was initially set to report to prison on July 31, 2023. However, a judge postponed his surrender date twice so that he could look after his newborn baby until his wife and co-defendant, Lauren Knox, was released from prison after serving a 6-month sentence for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She’d pleaded guilty to 1 count of the offense.
Knox, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child when she started her sentence, was released from prison on October 20, 2023, and is now in home confinement.
Wire fraud netted over $1 million
The DiMassa couple’s wire fraud offenses netted them and their co-conspirators over $1 million in stolen funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut.
The attorney’s office said that DiMassa, while serving as a state representative and as an administrative assistant for the West Haven City Council, was authorized to approve reimbursements of COVID-19 costs incurred by West Haven via funds from the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
He was one of two persons authorized by the City Council to act as a mayoral designee in order to sign off on pandemic-related expenses pertaining to the city’s allocation of federal grant money.
The attorney’s office said that between July 2020 and September 2021, DiMassa “conspired with others to steal these funds and other West Haven funds through the submission of fraudulent invoices, and subsequent payment, for COVID relief goods and services that were never provided.”
Among the invoices were bills for a youth violence prevention program and “Youth Violence COVID-19 Associated Expenses.” Services were to include:
- In-home counseling
- Special needs hourly services
- A fall youth clinic
- Wi-Fi assistance for low- and moderate-income families
- Equipment rentals
- Licensing fees
- Cleaning supplies
DiMassa and his wife billed the city for these services and received $147,776, the attorney’s office said.
DiMassa and a city employee formed fraudulent company to steal COVID-19 relief funds
In a related offense, DiMassa and John Bernardo, a city employee with the Community Development Administration, formed a company that fraudulently billed the city and its “COVID-19 Grant Department” for consulting services provided to the West Haven Health Department. Court documents indicate that those services were never performed.
Nonetheless, the city paid the company $636,783 for fraudulent billings between February 2021 and September 2021. DiMassa then allegedly made several large cash withdrawals from the company’s bank account.
Court documents indicate that some of those withdrawals happened about the same time that he made a cash “buy-in” of gaming chips at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
In June 2022, Bernardo pleaded guilty to 1 count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Later, he was sentenced to 13 months in prison. In addition, he was ordered to pay about $59,000 in restitution.
DiMassa was also convicted of conspiring with John Trasacco, a West Haven businessman, to fraudulently bill the city more than $431,000 for goods and services via 2 companies owned by Trasacco.
The attorney’s office said the goods and services included:
- Delivering personal protective equipment
- Maintaining ventilation, heating and air conditioning units
- Cleaning school buildings
- Delivering COVID-19 supplies to the Board of Education
One school building that was supposed to have been cleaned had been abandoned and vacant for years.
Co-conspirator gets harshest sentence after trial
In December 2022, a jury found Trasacco guilty of 1 count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 1 count of wire fraud. In April 2023, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $144,000 in restitution.
Of the 4 co-conspirators, only Trasacco—who received the harshest sentence—did not accept a pre-trial plea deal but rather moved on to a jury trial.
Such pre-trial processes involve a defendant pleading guilty in order to avoid a trial and, in exchange, perhaps receiving a lesser punishment. At trial, DiMassa was a key witness against Trasacco for government prosecutors.
As for DiMassa, the New Haven Register reported that his attorney, when requesting a second postponement of sentencing, said his client would report to a facility in Lompoc, California, when beginning his 27-month sentence.
White-collar wire fraud is a serious crime
Such crimes can involve a federal charge, as in the case above, or a state charge—or both.
Texas law covers many kinds of white-collar offenses, including wire fraud. Such crimes are customarily charged as the offense of theft.
Perhaps you or someone in your family in the Houston area faces a claim, accusation, allegation or even charge of a white-collar crime, such as:
- Health care/medicare fraud
- Wire fraud
- Money laundering
- Identity theft
- Antitrust violations
- Compounding pharmacy fraud
- Mail fraud
If so, you need the best Houston white-collar criminal defense lawyer or wire fraud attorney you can find to protect your legal rights.
The award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm has been cited and honored for its handling of white-collar criminal cases. Contact us today to schedule a private consultation for your case.