Fall River, Massachusetts’ Democrat Mayor Jasiel Correia Friday was arrested Friday for the second time in a year facing federal after allegedly attempting to extort marijuana companies for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.
Correia was already facing 13 federal charges for defrauding investors in his mobile app SnoOwl and filing false tax returns when the Federal Bureau of Investigations apprehended Correia at his home Friday morning.
Prosecutors contend Correia extorted at least four marijuana vendors who wanted to set up shop in Fall River. He also allegedly extorted a building owner for cash and a “Batman” Rolex watch worth about $10,000 in exchange for permits.
Correia, according to prosecutors, also “corruptly” demanded that his former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, give him half of her salary and a $10,000 “snow stipend” in exchange for being appointed to his staff while keeping her city job.
Andrade allegedly told one marijuana vendor last summer that “there are lots of sleazy things the mayor has going on” and, “you want to hear something even more f***ed up … I have to give [Correia] half of my salary, the indictment states according to CBS’ local affiliate in Boston.
Andrade, according to the indictment, claimed Correia had a safe with “hundreds of thousands” of dollars received from bribes.
“He has essentially run that town as a pay-to-play institution,” Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters, adding that the investigation is still underway.
“If the allegations in today’s indictment are true, Mayor Correia has engaged in an outrageous, brazen campaign of corruption which turned his job into a personal ATM,” Lelling said.
In a federal court in Boston Friday afternoon, Correia plead not guilty and was released on $250,000 bond. He has until Tuesday to pay $25,000 of the bond to stay out of jail.
He stood in the same courtroom last October pleading not guilty on charges claiming he defrauded investors in his startup company, SnoOwl, an app that was supposed to help businesses connect with consumers. Prosecutors alleged he misused $231,000 of the $363,000 he accepted from seven investors to develop SnoOwl to bankroll a lavish lifestyle, including a Mercedes, jewelry and designer clothes.
Andrade was also taken into custody Friday in Boston on extortion and bribery charges, according to the FBI.
Correia, who was elected when he was 23, has been “corrupt since he took office,” warned Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta, who leads Boston’s FBI office.
“Six months after being sworn in as mayor, he sold his office,” Bonavolonta told WPRI.
Outside of court, the now-27-year-old mayor insisted he was not guilty of the charges and “has done nothing but good for the great city of Fall River.”
The timing of the indictment is “troubling,” given that the mayor is running for re-election and the primary vote is scheduled for Sept. 17, Correia’s attorney said.
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