Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, David Sundberg, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Christina D. Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General , United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced that MICHEL DIMASSA31, of West Haven, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Omar A. Williams in Hartford to conspiracy charges stemming from his involvement in schemes that resulted in the theft of more than 1.2 million dollars from COVID relief funds and other City of West Haven funds.
According to court documents and statements made in court, DiMassa was a Connecticut state official who was also employed by the city of West Haven, most recently as an administrative assistant to the city council. In April 2020, the State of Connecticut received funding from the United States Department of Treasury through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (“CRF”), which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ( “CARES Act”) for the purpose of assisting local governments with costs incurred in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. From July 2020 to September 2021, the City of West Haven received approximately $1,150,257 in financial assistance from this fund. DiMassa, who was authorized to approve designated relief funds for reimbursement of COVID-related expenses incurred by West Haven, conspired with others to steal these and other funds from West Haven by submitting fraudulent invoices and subsequent payment, for COVID relief goods and services that were never provided.
In one scheme, DiMassa conspired with John Bernardo, who was employed by the City of West Haven as a housing specialist in the Community Development Administration office. In January 2021, DiMassa and Bernardo formed Compass Investment Group, LLC. Beginning in February 2021, Compass Investment Group LLC fraudulently billed the City of West Haven and its “COVID-19 Grants Department” for consulting services allegedly provided to the West Haven Health Department that were not performed . From February 2021 to September 2021, the City of West Haven paid Compass Investment Group a total of $636,783.70. DiMassa made several large cash withdrawals from Compass Investment Group LLC’s bank account, some of which were made shortly before or after he was recorded as having made a large cash “buy-in” of tokens from Compass Investment Group LLC. gambling at Mohegan Sun Casino.
DiMassa also conspired with his now wife, Lauren DiMassa, by submitting numerous fraudulent bills to West Haven for services related to a youth violence prevention program and for expenses associated with COVID-19 youth violence. . These invoices listed in-home consultation fees, cleaning supplies, hourly service for special needs, Wi-Fi assistance for low- and middle-income families, consultation services, licensing fees, a clinic for fall youth, meals, support group supplies, equipment rental and youth clinic support group. West Haven made at least 16 payments totaling approximately $147,776.10 to Lauren DiMassa, who never provided services to the City of West Haven.
In a third scheme, DiMassa conspired with another individual by submitting fraudulent invoices from businesses, which were controlled by DiMassa’s co-conspirator, in West Haven for goods and services, including thousands of units of personal protective equipment (PPE), HVAC maintenance at several municipal locations, COVID supplies for the school board, and cleaning services for various municipal and school buildings, including a vacant and abandoned school building for several years. The co-conspirator’s companies received approximately $431,982 as part of this scheme.
DiMassa agreed to pay restitution of $1,216,541.80.
DiMassa pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, an offense that carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years on each count. A sentencing date is not scheduled.
DiMassa has been released on $250,000 bond since his arrest on Oct. 20, 2021.
Bernardo and Lauren DiMassa each previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. They await judgment.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of the Inspector General of Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Ray Miller and David Sheldon.
Individuals with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 are encouraged to report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Disaster Fraud Center hotline at 866 -720-5721, or through the NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.