Ex-mayor charged in $900K thefts
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.