COURTS & LEGAL

Former Connecticut lawmaker gets 27 months in prison for stealing coronavirus aid

May 31, 2023, 12:01 PM

FILE - Former state Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., ...

FILE - Former state Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., with his attorney John Gulash, Nov. 1, 2022. DiMassa is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, May 31, 2023, for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven, Conn., most of it in federal coronavirus-related aid, and using a good chunk of it to fuel his gambling addiction. (Jessica Hill/Hartford Courant via AP, File)/Hartford Courant via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Jessica Hill/Hartford Courant via AP, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former Connecticut state representative was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Wednesday for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven — most of it in federal coronavirus-related aid — and using a good chunk of it to fuel his gambling addiction.

“I stole that money. That is on me,” Michael DiMassa said as he apologized during his sentencing before Judge Omar Williams.

“It’s hard to find the word to express how I feel. I feel ashamed, embarrassed, mortified,” the West Haven Democrat said.

DiMassa, 32, had asked for leniency. He could have gotten more than four years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. He was ordered to report to prison on July 31 and remains free on bond.

“Mr. DiMassa suffered from a debilitating gambling addiction at the time of the offense,” his lawyer, John Gulash, wrote in a court filing, “and his essentially unfettered access to a deep pool of federal funds and total lack of impulse control facilitated his precipitous downward spiral.”

The lawyer compared DiMassa to Howard Ratner, the gambler played by Adam Sandler in the movie “Uncut Gems.” He said he bet on things as frivolous as how long the national anthem would take to perform at the Super Bowl, or what color Gatorade would be poured on the winning coach.

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

US to lift most federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates next week

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

DiMassa and a business partner, John Bernardo, also a former West Haven city employee, pilfered 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 submit fraudulent invoices from Trasacco’s companies to the city, netting nearly $432,000 in COVID-19 aid. Nearly all of that went to Trasacco, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in March after a jury convicted him of fraud.

The final conspiracy involved DiMassa and his wife, Lauren DiMassa, and the theft of nearly $148,000, authorities said. The couple submitted phony requests for payments by the city related to a youth violence prevention program. Those pilfered 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 reported to prison.

In addition to his prison sentence, Michael DiMassa was ordered to pay nearly $866,000 in restitution to the city of West Haven. His codefendants were ordered to pay restitution to make up the rest of the stolen money.

“The defendant was a public official elected 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 after his arrest in 2021.

He had cited several reasons for leniency including his lack of any previous criminal record, his testicular cancer and being able to care for his children.

KSL 5 TV Live

Courts & Legal

Sam Lemon, right, speaks during a news conference with Susie Williams Carter, center, and lawyer Mi...

Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

A Black teen wrongfully executed for murdering a White woman in 1931. Now, his family is suing to defend his name

More than 90 years after Alexander McClay Williams was wrongfully executed, his family is suing the Delaware County, Pennsylvania, for damages, alleging he was sentenced to the electric chair for a crime he did not commit.

1 day ago

Cherry Stewart and her husband, Zachary Stewart, adopted two children from Haiti more than a year a...

Alex Cabrero

Utah family obtains legal assistance to help get children they adopted out of Haiti

In hopes of getting their two adopted children out of Haiti, a Utah family has joined with more than 20 other families in hiring the Fox Rothschild law firm that deals with difficult international adoptions.

2 days ago

Orlando Esiesa Tobar, 29, from Honduras, who goes by the moniker “Chaparro,” was charged Tuesda...

Brianna Chavez

Suspect accused of kidnapping, killing Kearns woman pleads guilty

One of six suspects pled guilty to the kidnapping and death of a 25-year-old Kearns woman in court Friday.

3 days ago

FILE - Steam billows from a coal-fired power plant Nov. 18, 2021, in Craig, Colo. The U.S. Securiti...

David A. Lieb, Associated Press

Republican AGs ask Supreme Court to block climate change lawsuits brought by several states

Utah state attorney general joins eighteen other Republican AGs in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved in a dispute over climate-change lawsuits.

3 days ago

The Audi after it was hit by an SUV on May 12....

Carlysle Price

Man facing six charges after car accident that injured two

A man was charged Thursday in connection to a car accident on May 12 that injured two.

4 days ago

View from outside the Utah State Prison....

Amy Donaldson, KSL Podcasts

‘The Letter Season 2’: Letters lead to meeting killer, life-changing moment

The sister of a murdered man reaches out to the killer. She did it without the knowledge of the rest of her family and it changed the course of all their lives.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Former Connecticut lawmaker gets 27 months in prison for stealing coronavirus aid