(SNews) – Former Connecticut State Democrat Rep. Michael DiMassa has been jailed by a judge after being convicted of embezzling $1.2 million in taxpayer money.
DiMassa, a former West Haven municipal employee, was sentenced Wednesday to two years and three months in prison for his role in orchestrating embezzlement schemes.
The schemes resulted in more than $1.2 million being stolen from the city government, including funds set aside for Covid aid.
32-year-old DiMassa was also ordered to pay more than $865,000 in restitution back to the city of West Haven.
He will face an additional 5 years of supervised release.
The federal sentencing hearing at the U.S. District Court in Hartford marked the final chapter in a public corruption investigation that started nearly two years ago.
The probe exposed a sprawling scheme in West Haven to steal federal Covid relief funds.
Federal prosecutors originally recommended DiMassa serve between 3 to 4 years in federal prison for helping to pass off dozens of phony invoices in the city’s finance department.
However, U.S. District Judge Omar Williams chose to deliver a more lenient sentence for the Democrat lawmaker.
The judge chose a lighter sentence based on DiMassa’s guilty plea and the testimony he provided in court, which helped prosecutors to convict one of his co-defendants.
Williams acknowledged that none of the money would have been stolen had DiMassa not processed the fake invoices for himself and the three other defendants who were convicted as part of the investigation.
DiMassa pleaded guilty in November to three counts of wire fraud conspiracy with most of the funds being taken fraudulently from federal coronavirus-related aid to fuel a gambling addiction, according to court documents.
At the time, he admitted he and others wrote invoices for the city of West Haven for fraudulent legal, lobbying, and consulting services.
These services were never provided.
DiMassa’s lawyer John Gulash said in a court filing that his client lacked “impulse control” as he suffered from a gambling addiction.
“Mr. DiMassa suffered from a debilitating gambling addiction at the time of the offense and his essentially unfettered access to a deep pool of federal funds and total lack of impulse control facilitated his precipitous downward spiral,” he wrote.
Much of the gambling happened at the Mohegan Sun casino in eastern Connecticut, his attorney said.
The theft began in mid-2020 when serving on the city council, he had the authority to approve coronavirus-related reimbursements.
DiMassa and a business partner, John Bernardo, also a former West Haven city employee, stole nearly $637,000, prosecutors said.
Bernardo previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud.
He was sentenced to 13 months in prison in March.
Separately, DiMassa and another business owner, John Trasacco, conspired to net nearly $432,000 in COVID-19 aid.
The duo coordinated fraudulent invoices from Trasacco’s companies to the city.
Trasacco was convicted of fraud and was sentenced to eight years in prison in March.
A third scheme involved DiMassa and his wife, Lauren DiMassa.
The couple stole nearly $148,000, authorities said, by submitting phony requests for payments by the city.
They documented that the payments were intended for a youth violence prevention program.
Lauren DiMassa pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced in March to six months in prison.
Federal prosecutors have sought a lengthier prison sentence for Michael DiMassa and have asked for more than $1 million in restitution paid by him to West Haven.
“The defendant was a public official elected to serve his constituents,” prosecutors wrote, sentencing documents show.
“Instead, he completely betrayed that trust by stealing public funds for his own benefit.”
DiMassa was arrested in 2021.
He subsequently resigned from the Legislature and the West Haven city council.