November 21, 2018

Ex-Middletown mayor pleads guilty to embezzling from employer, brother

A former Middletown mayor pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud charges stemming from a scheme in which he embezzled nearly $1 million from his ex-employer and brother, prosecutors say.

Stephen T. Gionfriddo, 68, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud, the Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Gionfriddo faces up to 20 years in prison on each count when he is sentenced Feb. 12, 2019.

The guilty plea stems from a fraud scheme in which he stole about $543,372 from his former employer, an unidentified Rocky Hill law firm where he worked as a paralegal, and its clients and about $457,000 from his brother to pay back the firm.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Gionfriddo in Dec. 2013 had the firm's bookkeeper prepare checks payable to his creditors by misrepresenting that the funds were required to pay client expenses.

The ex-mayor intercepted numerous checks payable to the law firm or to its clients and endorsed the checks to himself. He then deposited the checks into his personal bank account, authorities said.

In July 2017, Gionfriddo forged the signature of one of the firm's partners on a Notice of Certificate Maturity to cancel a certificate of deposit (CD) of one of the firm's clients and mailed the form, investigators said.

Gionfriddo intercepted the roughly $112,748 distribution checks representing the proceeds of the client's CD, and converted those funds for his personal use.

In total, he stole about $543,372 from the law firm and its clients.

Investigators said Gionfriddo agreed to repay the firm after its principals confronted him about the theft in late Sept. 2017.

Days later, Gionfriddo stole from his brother by taking $195,000 from his defined contribution plan by impersonating his brother on recorded phone calls with the plan's provider and submitting false paperwork. Gionfriddo then stole another $201,518 from his bank and investment accounts.

Gionfriddo was arrested on a criminal complaint on June 12.

This is not Gionfriddo's first fraud scheme.

In 2006, he was convicted of federal wire fraud and mail fraud for embezzling over $633,000 from clients while working as their attorney to cover gambling debts.

Gionfriddo, a city councilman for over 25 years, served as Middletown's mayor for about six months in 1993, succeeding former Mayor Sebastian Garafalo who resigned.

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