Ex-Lawmaker's Wife Pleads Guilty In Covid-19 Funds Theft

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The wife of a former Connecticut state lawmaker pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with her role in the alleged theft of more than $600,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds from the city of West Haven.

Lauren DiMassa, one of several people including her husband who were arrested in the investigation, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy in U.S. District Court in Hartford. Sentencing has not been scheduled. She remains free on bail.

Federal prosecutors said West Haven paid DiMassa, formerly known as Lauren Knox, nearly $148,000 for services she never provided to the city. She and her husband were accused of submitting fraudulent invoices to the city for coronavirus-related services including youth violence prevention, but instead they used the money for their own benefit, prosecutors said.

DiMassa’s lawyer, Francis O’Reilly, said in court that it was important to note that DiMassa turned over most of the money she received from the city to her husband. O'Reilly declined to comment after the hearing.

DiMassa's husband is former state Rep. Michael DiMassa, a West Haven Democrat who also served as an aide to the West Haven City Council. He resigned from both positions after his arrest in October. He has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors allege Michael DiMassa used his city position, which included approving the reimbursement of COVID-19 expenditures, to steal the money, in part to finance gambling at the Mohegan Sun Casino.

Last month, Michael DiMassa's former business partner, John Bernardo, who served as a housing specialist for the city, pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for his role in the theft.

A fourth person charged in the case, business owner John Trasacco, has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors say Trasacco is linked to fraudulent invoices submitted to the city for COVID-19 related services that were never provided.