Former lawmaker's wife sentenced in theft of COVID-19 funds

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The wife of a now-former Connecticut state lawmaker was sentenced Thursday to six months in federal prison in connection with her role in the alleged theft of federal coronavirus relief funds from the city of West Haven.

Lauren DiMassa, one of several people arrested with former state Rep. Michael DiMassa in the investigation, had pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors said the city of West Haven paid Lauren DiMassa 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.

“I am embarrassed and appalled at my own actions and simply wish to pay my debts and live out a quiet life with my family,” she wrote in a letter of apology to the judge.

Her lawyer argued for a more lenient sentence, pointing out that DiMassa is 23 weeks pregnant.

District Judge Omar Williams noted the child was conceived after DiMassa was arrested and knew she was facing prison time. He ordered Lauren DiMassa to report to prison by May 23. He also sentenced her to serve five years of supervised release, the first six months of which must be spend in home confinement. She also was ordered to pay $147,776 in restitution.

DiMassa’s lawyer, Francis O’Reilly, said during her plea hearing last July that it was important to note that DiMassa turned over most of the money she received from the city to her husband.

Michael DiMassa, a Democrat, served as an aide to the city, with authority to approve reimbursement of COVID-19 expenditures.

He resigned from that job and the state legislature after his 2021 arrest. He has pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to the total theft of more than $1.2 million in virus relief funds from the city and is set to be sentenced next month.

Another former city employee, John Bernardo, 66, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months in prison for his role in the scheme.