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October 26, 2021

CT Rep. Michael DiMassa resigns from legislature following charges he stole federal relief funds

Photo | CT Mirror State Rep. Michael DiMassa leaves federal court in New Haven on Oct. 20, 2021.

State Rep. Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, resigned his seat in the Connecticut General Assembly on Monday following charges that he allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding that was meant to help the city of West Haven recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

His resignation comes less than a week after DiMassa, who worked as an administrative assistant to the West Haven City Council, was indicted by federal prosecutors for allegedly steering more than $636,000 in federal relief money to a shell company he and another city employee created in January 2021.

DiMassa, 30, was first elected to the Connecticut legislature in 2016 by residents in West Haven and part of New Haven, and he successfully defended that seat in 2018 and 2020.

But it was his role with the West Haven city government that landed him in federal court last week. He announced last week that he would resign from his job with the city.

FBI agents arrested DiMassa on Oct. 20 after they obtained financial records from West Haven’s finance department that showed DiMassa funneled federal money to his limited liability company, which operated under the name Compass Investment Group.

The FBI and U.S. Attorneys office alleged that DiMassa’s company provided no services to West Haven in return for dozens of payments it received between February and September of this year. Instead, the federal prosecutors allege DiMassa used part of that cash to purchase gambling chips at the Mohegan Sun casino.

Gov. Ned Lamont issued a statement Monday supporting DiMassa’s decision to resign.

“If the allegations are true, he has not only broken the law but also betrayed the public trust,” Lamont said. “He had no choice but to resign. The citizens of West Haven and all of Connecticut deserve honest government.”

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in the statehouse continue to call for a comprehensive review of all of the federal assistance that was handed out to Connecticut’s cities and towns through the 2020 CARES Act.

The state Office of Policy and Management, which disbursed the federal funding to Connecticut’s towns and cities, has already hired an outside auditing firm to review the entire $1.2 million West Haven received last year. The agency is also collecting financial information from Connecticut’s other 168 towns and cities to review the expenses they covered with the federal funding.

There are still many questions about how DiMassa was able to direct more than $636,000 to a company he founded earlier this year. Invoices and other financial records obtained by the CT Mirror through a request under the state Freedom of Information Act suggest that DiMassa was able to personally sign off on the invoices his company submitted to the city.

Those documents also suggest that another person within the West Haven city government signed off on the expense reports on a line meant for the West Haven Finance Director. The signatures on those documents are not clearly legible.

Frank Cieplinski, who has served as West Haven’s Finance Director since 2019, has not responded to emails sent to him on Friday and Monday. And West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi has refused to elaborate on the allegedly misappropriated money that went to Compass.

The West Haven city council is scheduled to meet Monday evening, but the ongoing criminal investigation is not on the council’s agenda.

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