Ex-mayor charged in $900K thefts

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - Front Page - BY PRESS STAFF

NEW HAVEN — A former Mid­dle­town mayor was ar­rested Tues­day on a crim­i­nal com­plaint charg­ing him with wire fraud stem­ming from a scheme in which he al­legedly em­bez­zled about $490,000 from his former em­ployer, then stole an es­ti­mated $457,000 from a fam­ily mem­ber to re­pay the em­ployer, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral au­thor­i­ties.

Stephen T. Gion­friddo, of Mid­dle­town, ap­peared be­fore U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Sarah A. L. Mer­riam in New Haven in the case and was re­leased on $200,000 bond, said the re­lease from the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

Gion­friddo was pre­vi­ously con­victed of fed­eral wire fraud and mail fraud of­fenses in 2006 for em­bez­zling more than $633,000 from clients while serv­ing as their at­tor­ney, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

The 67-year-old served on Mid­dle­town’s Com­mon Coun­cil from 1979 through Oc­to­ber 2005, and was mayor for six months af­ter Se­bas­tian Garafalo stepped down to as­sume du­ties as tax col­lec­tor in 1993. More re­cently, Gion­friddo was an Elec­tion Day mod­er­a­tor.

The com­plaint filed this month al­leges that while Gion­friddo, who was dis­barred, was work­ing as a para­le­gal at a law firm in greater Hart­ford from De­cem­ber 2013 through Septem­ber 2017, he al­legedly made false req­ui­si­tions for about $377,900 in checks to pay clients’ ex­penses. He then al­legedly con­verted th­ese funds for his per­sonal use.

Gion­friddo is also ac­cused of forg­ing the sig­na­ture of one of the firm’s part­ners to fraud­u­lently con­vert a cer­tifi­cate of de­posit of ap­prox­i­mately $112,750 to a check, and then con­verted it for his per­sonal use. In to­tal, he is ac­cused of steal­ing $490,650 from the law firm, the re­lease said.

The com­plaint fur­ther al­leges prin­ci­pals at the firm con­fronted Gion­friddo about the theft of funds in late Septem­ber 2017, and he promised rec­om­pense. He then al­legedly stole from a fam­ily mem­ber by tak­ing about $45,000 from a check­ing ac­count and about $217,000 from an on­line trad­ing ac­count.

He is ac­cused of also caus­ing a hard­ship with­drawal of $195,000 to be made against his fam­ily mem­ber’s de­fined con­tri­bu­tion plan by im­per­son­at­ing his fam­ily mem­ber on recorded tele­phone calls with the plan’s provider and sub­mit­ting bo­gus pa­per­work, the re­lease stated.

The fam­ily mem­ber Gion­friddo al­legedly stole from had re­turned to the state due to an ill­ness and the man told au­thor­i­ties Gion­friddo had of­fered to help him. The ac­cused had ac­cess to the rel­a­tive’s bank ac­count and mailbox, ac­cord­ing to the war­rant af­fi­davit. Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing Gion­friddo has taken more than $45,000 from the rel­a­tive’s check­ing ac­count, the man cut off his ac­cess to the ac­count, court doc­u­ments show.

It was then his rel­a­tive dis­cov­ered the with­drawal from the plan, doc­u­ments at­test. Gion­friddo al­legedly posed as his rel­a­tive to take out the funds, the war­rant said.

If con­victed of wire fraud, he could serve up to 20 years in prison.

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