West Haven resident Lauren DiMassa, age 38, was sentenced to six months in prison followed by five years of supervised release on Thursday, March 23 for her role in the scheme, according to the US Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut.
DiMassa is the wife of former state representative and West Haven city employee Michael DiMassa, who was authorized to approve the $1,150,257 in financial assistance awarded to the city from July 2020 to September 2021 by the US Department of the Treasury as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Between July 2020 and October 2021, Michael and Lauren DiMassa conspired with John Bernardo and John Trasacco to steal these relief funds by submitting fraudulent invoices and subsequent payments for COVID relief services and goods that were then never provided, officials said.
To accomplish this, Michael DiMassa would submit fake invoices to West Haven for services related to a Youth Violence Prevention Program and for youth violence COVID-19-associated expenses.
These invoices would list charges for services such as in-home counseling, cleaning supplies, special needs hourly service, a fall youth clinic, and more, and request that checks be directly made out to Lauren DiMassa.
Ultimately, the city of West Haven made 16 payments to Lauren DiMassa totaling around $147,776 even though she never provided any services to the city. The couple then used this money for their own benefit.
For her role in the scheme, Lauren DiMassa was arrested on Feb. 18, 2022. She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud months later on July 14, 2022.
She is currently released on a $50,000 bond and will report to prison on Tuesday, May 23.
As for the other people involved in the scheme, they are either awaiting sentencing or have been sentenced:
- Michael DiMassa, who resigned from his elected office in October 2021, pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Nov. 1, 2022. He is awaiting sentencing and will pay restitution of more than $1.2 million;
- Bernardo, a former West Haven employee who helped Michael DiMassa form a company that they used to bill the city for the fake services, was sentenced to 13 months in prison on Wednesday, March 22. He will also pay nearly $59,000 in restitution.
- Trasacco was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. He is awaiting sentencing.
In addition to her prison sentence and supervised release, Lauren DiMassa will also pay around $147,776 in restitution.
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