Second Arrest in West Haven COVID-19 Relief Funds Investigation
A second West Haven employee has been arrested on charges connected to the alleged misuse of federal COVID-19 relief funds provided to the city.
John Bernardo was arrested Thursday on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Federal prosecutors say Bernardo, a housing specialist in West Haven’s Office of Community Development Administration, formed Compass Investment Group, LLC in January with former state representative Michael DiMassa.
The business address listed for Compass Investment Group, LLC was Bernardo’s West Haven home, according to the arrest affidavit.
The company began billing the City of West Haven and its COVID-19 Grant Department for consulting services purportedly provided to the West Haven Health Department that were not performed, according to prosecutors.
West Haven paid Compass Investment Group $636,783.70 between February and September, federal officials said.
In the arrest affidavit, prosecutors detailed several invoiced voucher payments for COVID-19 consulting services from West Haven to Compass Investment Group totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Days after the payments were made, a wage payment was withdrawn from the company’s bank account.
In some instances, prosecutors said wire transfers of money were then made from the bank account of Compass Investment Group to Bernardo and DiMassa.
Bernardo appeared in federal court in New Haven Thursday morning. He was released on $250,000 bond. There is a probable cause hearing scheduled for Bernardo on November 24.
The alleged theft of the funds played heavily in the race for mayor in West Haven, with Republicans challenging Mayor Nancy Rossi on her oversight of the funds.
The race between Rossi and her challenger, Republican Barry Cohen has yet to be officially decided. Rossi held a 29-vote lead over Cohen on Election Night, but there will be a recount of the votes on Sunday.
Rossi released a statement Thursday after Bernardo’s arrest.
“As we continue forward with the investigation into this alleged horrific crime, I am happy to see that those suspected of wrongdoing and fraud are being held
accountable for their actions,” Rossi said. “I am sick to my stomach over this alleged theft, and I want all those individuals involved to be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Cohen also made a statement, focusing on Rossi and her accountability as mayor of West Haven.
“Unfortunately, our city continues to be negatively impacted by the complete lack of oversight by the Rossi administration to oversee any expenditures over $500 as she pledged to do when taking office in 2017,” Cohen said. “This is why myself and my supporters wish to ensure every ballot cast was done so appropriately to ensure the integrity of Tuesday’s election.”