A federal court judge has granted a second request to postpone the prison sentence of a former Connecticut state representative convicted of embezzling COVID relief funding. The delay will allow him to care for a newborn baby until his wife is released from prison later this year.
Last week, Judge Omar A. Williams postponed for the second time the surrender date of former Rep. Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, who will now be expected to begin a 27-month prison sentence on Dec. 4.
DiMassa, a former employee of the city of West Haven, and his wife, Lauren Knox DiMassa, both pleaded guilty to charges related to a conspiracy to steal more than $1.2 million in COVID relief funds from the city. Lauren DiMassa began serving a six month sentence in May and has since given birth while incarcerated in Texas.
“The spirit of this request is to minimize the potential secondary consequences of the two defendants being unavailable to care for the newborn baby,” Michael DiMassa’s attorney, John Gulash, wrote last week. “This is the second request of Defendant to postpone the report date, and will be the final request by Defendant to postpone the report date.”
DiMassa had initially been expected to self-surrender to a federal prison on July 31. However, earlier that month, the judge granted a motion to delay that report date until Sept. 7. Williams also granted DiMassa permission to travel to Texas in order to return the couple’s newborn child to Connecticut.
According to last week’s court filings, DiMassa has since returned to Connecticut with the infant and is now caring for the child and awaiting his wife’s release date, which is expected to occur no earlier than Nov. 11.
In his request last week, Gulash argued the new Dec. 4 surrender date would allow her adequate time to return home before DiMassa reports to a federal prison in Lompoc, California.
“Counsel further represents that in the event Ms. Knox’s release date is meaningfully advanced, counsel will promptly notify the Court and the U.S. Attorney by Notice filed with the Court,” Gulash wrote.
Federal prosecutors did not object to either delay of DiMassa’s surrender date.
DiMassa first took office as a state representative in 2017. He also worked as an administrative assistant to West Haven’s city council. He resigned from both positions after his arrest in 2021.
Federal law enforcement officials argued that DiMassa and others fraudulently billed West Haven for COVID-related work that was never completed. In addition to the 27-month prison sentence, the judge has ordered Michael DiMassa to pay $856,844.45 in restitution.
Prosecutors said DiMassa and a co-defendant, John Bernardo, founded a consulting firm, Compass Investment Group, LLC, to which the city paid more than $630,000 for work that was never performed. In court documents, they alleged that DiMassa spent more than $50,000 on casino chips at Mohegan Sun before and after making transactions from the Compass account.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, West Haven paid Lauren DiMassa nearly $148,000 for supplies and services related to youth programs, which she never provided.
Bernardo and both DiMassas pleaded guilty to the charges. However, a third defendant, John Trasacco, received an eight-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty of one count of related wire fraud.