Jasiel Correia, the 27-year-old Democrat mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, was arrested Friday on charges of fraud, extortion, bribery, and filing false tax returns.
The FBI’s Boston office and the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts each tweeted the news.
“Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was arrested this morning by @FBIBoston IRS-CI & @HUDOIG special agents at his home. He’s accused of conspiring to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from marijuana companies,” the FBI tweeted.
The Bureau followed up by tweeting that Correia’s former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, was also arrested “on extortion and bribery charges.”
The U.S. attorney added that three others aside from Correia and Andrade were also charged.
“When it comes to public corruption in Mass., this office is the primary deterrent. I take that seriously, and we will continue to aggressively pursue corruption in local, city and state governments,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
“Despite Mayor Correia’s public assurances to the City of Fall River, based on today’s indictment, he has essentially run that town as a pay-to-play institution,” Lelling added.
Correia, according to court documents, tried to develop an app, SnoOwl, that would “connect local businesses with their target consumer market.” He began looking for investors and claimed he previously had sold a successful app and that he would not take compensation from their investments. Instead, Correia used 64% of the funds raised ($231,447) to fund his political ambitions and lavish lifestyle. Correia used investor funds to purchase a Mercedes, jewelry, and designer clothes; to pay off his debt, and to travel with his then-girlfriend to luxury hotels and casinos.
Correia also filed false tax returns, failing to report the money he diverted from SnoOwl. When he learned he and SnoOwl were being investigated by the federal government, he filed false amended tax returns.
This mostly took place before Correia ran for mayor in 2015. When he was elected, he ignored SnoOwl’s investors and began using the mayor’s office to extort money in exchange for political favors. From the indictment:
Within months of becoming mayor in January 2016, CORREIA began monetizing his official position to fund his lavish lifestyle and mounting legal bills. As set forth below, CORREIA used his office to: (i) extort at least four marijuana vendors for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribe payments; (ii) extort a building owner for cash and a Rolex watch in exchange for, among other things, the approval of, and payment for, permits and excavating work to activate the water supply to a commercial building; and (iii) corruptly demand that his chief of staff give him half of her salary and almost all of a $10,000 “snow stipend,” in return for appointing her and allowing her to keep her city job.
This isn’t even the first time Correia’s been in trouble since becoming mayor. In March, he was re-elected on the same ballot in which they voted him out. Correia had initially been charged in 2018 “with 13 criminal counts of wire fraud and filing false tax returns,” The New York Times reported.
“On Tuesday, 7,829 residents voted to recall Mr. Correia, and 4,911 voted to keep him in office, according to the city’s Election Commission. But on the same ballot, voters were asked to choose among five people for the mayor’s job. Mr. Correia’s name was included. There, he won a plurality, with about 35 percent of voters voting for Mr. Correia,” the outlet reported.