Lauren Knox, the wife of former state Democratic lawmaker Michael DiMassa, leaves the federal courthouse in New Haven with her mother and attorney. Knox, who now goes by Lauren DiMassa, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge on July 12, 2022. Andrew Brown / CT Mirror

The wife of former state Democratic lawmaker Michael DiMassa pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge on Tuesday and admitted to helping DiMassa steal more than $147,000 from the city of West Haven.

The federal conspiracy charge to which Lauren DiMassa — formerly Lauren Knox — agreed to plead guilty to could land her in federal prison and will require her to pay restitution for the money she allegedly helped to embezzle.

Lauren DiMassa, who had a child in May, is the second person to sign a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, who have charged four defendants with stealing a combined $1.2 million from West Haven and its taxpayers.

The Connecticut Mirror obtained records in February that showed Michael DiMassa, who served as a state lawmaker and assistant to the West Haven city council, approved 16 payments between July 2020 and August 2021 that went to his future wife.

Those records showed that Lauren DiMassa sent invoices to the city and claimed to be performing services under a youth violence prevention grant. She billed for things like meals, equipment, supplies, transportation, personal protective equipment, “counseling” and “support clinics.”

During the hearing on Tuesday, Lauren DiMassa admitted that those invoices were bogus. She also agreed with prosecutors that she assisted in the alleged scheme by cashing and depositing the $8,000 to $10,000 checks that were written out to her by the city.

But her defense attorney, Francis O’Reilly, stood up during the hearing to emphasize that most of the money that his client received out of the city’s bank accounts was handed over to Michael DiMassa, whom she wed late last year.

“She turned over the bulk of the proceeds to her husband,” O’Reilly told the judge. “I think that is important for the court to understand.”

The federal conspiracy charge that Lauren DiMassa pleaded guilty to can carry a maximum prison sentence of up to 30 years, but by pleading guilty, federal prosecutors said they are likely to recommend a prison sentence of between a year to 18 months.

Her actual sentence will be decided by the federal judge later this year.

Michael DiMassa, who is at the center of the public corruption investigation, has pleaded not guilty.

His jury trial is scheduled to take place in September.

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Andrew BrownInvestigative Reporter

Andrew joined CT Mirror as an investigative reporter in July 2021. Prior to moving to Connecticut, Andrew was a reporter at newspapers in North Dakota, West Virginia and most recently South Carolina. He’s covered business, utilities, environmental issues, the opioid crisis, local government and two state legislatures. Do you have a story tip? Reach Andrew at 843-592-9958