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Arrest of Connecticut State Rep. Michael DiMassa on federal wire fraud charges

Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut announced the arrest of Democratic State Representative Michael DiMassa for allegedly defrauding over $600,000 from the city of West Haven. The federal wire fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

According to a press release from the prosecutor, Mr. DiMassa supposedly formed an LLC with another person and used that LLC to bill the City of West Haven for consulting services that were not in fact provided. Allegedly, Mr. DiMassa made withdrawals from the LLC at about the same time he made large chip purchases at Mohegan Sun casino. One might suspect the government to argue that Mr. DiMassa’s fraud was the result of a gambling addiction.

Of course, nothing has been proven as of yet. But if Mr. DiMassa is in fact convicted of wire fraud for allegedly stealing $600,000, he is likely looking at a Federal Sentencing Guidelines range of between 33 and 57 months. In federal cases, crimes have minimum and maximum penalties, but judges use an advisory system called the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to narrow down the sentencing range. Those guidelines give defendants and attorneys an idea of what to expect at sentencing, but are nevertheless just approximations. This table provides the guidance.

Assuming that Mr. DiMassa has no significant criminal record, he would be categorized as Criminal History Category I (for first offenders). Then, people convicted of wire fraud begin at a base offense level of 7. A loss of $600,000 adds an additional 14 offense levels. He might also get an additional 2 level enhancement for defrauding a government agency. See USSG 2B1.1(b)(9). At a sentencing level of 23, he would be facing a Guidelines range of 46-57 months. If he were to plead guilty and accept responsibility, however, he would probably receive a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, yielding a final offense level of 20 and a Guidelines range of 33-41 months in prison.

Most federal defendants plead guilty after negotiating the general terms of the guilty plea (i.e. the amount of fraudulent loss attributable to the defendant, the role of the defendant in the crime, etc), and then a judge determines the specific and appropriate sentence for the defendant after the guilty plea has been entered.  Federal criminal practice differs significantly from state court practice in this regard, as most sentences are explicitly negotiated before pleading guilty in state court. In federal court, when defendants plead guilty, they have an idea of what they might receive, but they don’t really know for sure what will happen to them until after their guilty pleas have been irrevocably entered before the court.

Also, if he is convicted, Mr. DiMassa will also certainly be required to pay restitution in the full amount, and/or sign a forfeiture order such that property belonging to him can be seized by the government to pay back the criminal debts.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for federal wire fraud, you should strongly consider contacting Matthew Galluzzo. Mr. Galluzzo is a former Manhattan prosecutor and current resident of Connecticut, with over twenty years of experience in criminal law. He is a member of the Criminal Justice Act panels for both the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, meaning that federal judges appoint him to represent defendants in difficult federal cases throughout New York City, and he is admitted to practice in federal court in Connecticut.

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