A former Middletown paralegal who is also that city’s former mayor pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud charges stemming from a scheme in which he embezzled more than $500,000 from his former employer and stole nearly $400,000 from his brother to pay back the law firm.
Stephen Gionfriddo, 68, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer to one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. He will be sentenced Feb. 12, and faces up to 40 years in prison.
Gionfriddo, who served as mayor in 1993 and worked for the small Rocky Hill-based LeFoll & LeFoll, was charged with embezzling $490,000 from the law firm. He also stole, authorities said, $457,000 more from his brother to repay the law firm. Gionfriddo’s brother, identified in court papers only as “DG,” is an attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and suffers from multiple sclerosis.
Gionfriddo, court papers said, began working for LeFoll & LeFoll, a family owned firm that handles personal injury claims, estate planning and elder law, and divorce and family law, in August 2013. Beginning about four months later and continuing for several years, he made bogus requisitions for about $377,895 in checks purportedly to pay client expenses, according to charging documents. But Gionfriddo, the government said, converted the funds for his personal use. He forged the signatures of one of the firm’s partners to fraudulently convert a certificate of deposit of about $112,748 to a check. He then kept the money, the government said.
The complaint further states that when confronted in September 2017 by principals of LeFoll & LeFoll, Gionfriddo said he’d pay them back. The government said Gionfriddo worked on paying the firm back by stealing from his brother. Gionfriddo, the government said, stole $45,000 from his brother’s checking account and about $217,000 from another account. The government also said Gionfriddo caused a hardship withdrawal of $195,000 to be made for medical expenses against his brother’s retirement plan by impersonating him on recorded telephone lines with the plan’s provider and submitting phony paperwork.
In an effort to conceal the scheme, the government said, Gionfriddo contacted the U.S. Postal Service and had his brother’s mail held for the entire month of January.
This is the second time Gionfriddo has had run-ins with the law. He was convicted of federal wire fraud and mail fraud offenses in 2006 for embezzling more than $633,000 from clients while acting as their attorney.
Gionfriddo is represented by Richard Brown of Brown, Paindiris & Scott in Hartford. Brown did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Wines. Tom Carson, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, could not be reached for comment.