Former Connecticut lawmaker to be sentenced for theft of coronavirus aid

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A former Connecticut state representative is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven, most of it in coronavirus-related federal aid, and using much of it to fuel his gambling addiction.

Michael DiMassa, 32, a Democrat from West Haven, could receive more than four years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. He asks Judge Omar Williams for clemency.

"Mister. DiMassa suffered from a debilitating gambling addiction at the time of the crime," his attorney, John Gulash, wrote in a court filing, "and his essentially unrestricted access to vast amounts of federal funds and complete lack of impulse control facilitated his precipitous fall. spiral."

The attorney compared DiMassa to Howard Ratner, the player played by Adam Sandler in the movie "Uncut Gems." He said he bet on things as frivolous as how long it would take for the national anthem to play at the Super Bowl, or what color of Gatorade would be poured over the winning coach.

He did much of his gambling and betting at the Mohegan Sun casino in eastern Connecticut.

At the time of the thefts, which began in mid-2020, DiMassa was a state representative and an aide to the West Haven City Council with the authority to approve reimbursements for coronavirus-related expenses. He pleaded guilty in November to three counts of wire fraud conspiracy and admitted that he and others billed West Haven for legal, lobbying and consulting services that were never provided.

DiMassa and a business associate, John Bernardo, also a former West Haven city employee, stole nearly $637,000, prosecutors said.

Bernardo pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 13 months in prison in March.

In a second scheme, DiMassa and another business owner, John Trasacco, conspired to send fraudulent invoices from Trasacco companies to the city, obtaining nearly $432,000 in COVID-19 relief, with almost all of it going to Trasacco. Trasacco was sentenced to eight years in prison in March after a jury found him guilty of fraud.

The final conspiracy involved DiMassa and his wife, Lauren DiMassa, and the theft of nearly $148,000, authorities said. The couple submitted bogus requests for payment from the city related to a youth violence prevention program. The stolen funds were not federal coronavirus aid.

Lauren DiMassa, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced in March to six months in prison. She recently appeared in prison.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence in the range of federal guidelines for Michael DiMassa and want the judge to order him to pay more than $1 million in restitution to West Haven.

“The defendant was a public official chosen to serve his constituents,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing documents. "Instead, he completely betrayed that trust by stealing public funds for his own benefit."

DiMassa resigned from the Legislature and the city of West Haven following his arrest in 2021.

He has cited various reasons for the leniency, including a lack of prior criminal record, his testicular cancer and being able to care for his children.

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