The former mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, Jasiel Correia, was convicted by a federal jury on Friday of extorting cannabis businesses and defrauding investors of more than $200,000, the New York Times reports. Correia, 29, was arrested in 2019 for extorting cannabis companies in exchange for non-opposition letters, which are required under state law in order for cannabusinesses to open in a municipality. He was initially indicted in 2018.
Correia solicited bribes ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 in cash, campaign contributions, and other payments from cannabis industry operators. He also bilked investors in his app, SnoOwl, out of at least $360,000, the report says.
Correia, who was elected in 2015 at 23-years-old, was convicted on charges of wire fraud, falsifying tax returns, and related counts of extortion. Last December, his former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, bribery, and making false statements in connection with Correia’s scheme.
Nathaniel R. Mendell, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, described the verdict as “a fitting end to this saga.”
“He sold his office, and he sold out the people of Fall River,” Mendell said to the Times.
Correia indicated he would appeal.
“It’s not a great day but I’ve had other not great days and everybody here knows that that’s watched this unfold. But we’re gonna have a great day of vindication and eventually the real truth will come out. There were no facts that were brought forward, there was no overwhelming evidence. Unfortunately, there was a couple things that didn’t go our way that were technical today and that’s where we’ll be on grounds for appeal and we’ll win that appeal and I will be vindicated, and my future will be very long and great.” – Correia, to reporters, via WPRI
Correia was both removed from office and voted back in during a special election in March 2019. He ran for re-election that November and lost to Paul Coogan.
In a statement published by the Fall River Reporter following the conviction, Coogan said it was a “dark day” for the city but the “end of a long chapter” in its history.
“A chapter that does not at all reflect the true character of our City,” he said. “The verdict today confirmed that Jasiel Correia used the Mayor’s Office in Fall River for his own benefit. He made the unfortunate choice to use his official duties and powers to benefit himself, when he should have been acting in the best interest of our community.”
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