2 more arrested in ex-lawmaker’s COVID relief fraud case

Two other people were arrested Friday in a federal criminal case involving a former Connecticut state official accused of stealing federal pandemic relief funds from the city of West Haven while working as an aide to the municipal Council.

A recently released six-count federal grand jury indictment accuses former Democratic Representative Michael DiMassa, his wife Lauren Knox and two others of conspiring to steal more than $1.2 million in funds COVID-19 relief and other city funds. DiMassa and his former associate, John Bernardo, had previously been charged with stealing $600,000.

All four, who live in West Haven, face charges of conspiracy and fraud.

On Friday, Knox, 37, and John Trasacco, 50, a business owner, were arrested for the first time in connection with the case. They both appeared before a federal magistrate and pleaded not guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud stemming from two separate alleged schemes involving DiMassa, reported the New Haven Register. Both have been released on bail pending trial.

DiMassa and Bernardo, a former City of West Haven employee, appeared in court virtually, each pleading not guilty to wire fraud charges stemming from a previous charge filed in October of allegedly stealing more than $600,000 using fraudulent invoices submitted to the city through a company. they formed in January 2021 as Compass Investment Group LLC.

Messages were left seeking comment from attorneys for DiMassa and Bernardo. A message was left on Knox’s cellphone and an email was sent to Trasacco requesting comment.

The city of West Haven had received more than $1.1 million in federal pandemic relief funds between July 2020 and September 2021.

The indictment released Friday alleges that DiMassa, who was authorized to approve reimbursement of COVID-related expenses in his position with the city, conspired with the other three 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.”

The indictment alleges that DiMassa and Trasacco conspired to submit fraudulent invoices through two entities controlled by Trasacco – L&H Company and JIL Sanitation Services – for goods and services the city never received, including thousands of units of PPE, HVAC maintenance at several municipal locations, COVID-related supplies for the city school board, and cleaning services for various municipal and school buildings, including a school building that has been vacant for years .

The indictment says the two companies received approximately $431,982.

Additionally, DiMassa and Knox, who are now married, are accused in the indictment of submitting numerous fraudulent bills for services related to youth violence programs, including counseling services. , meals, support group supplies, and low-to-moderate income Wi-Fi assistance. families.

The indictment says the city of West Haven made at least 16 payments totaling approximately $147,776 to Knox, which never provided services to the city.

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