A former mayor in Massachusetts has been found guilty on charges related to a scheme to extort cannabis vendors for thousands of dollars and defraud investors.
On Friday, May 14, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that a federal jury had convicted former Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II on multiple charges.
The IRS reports that the jury convicted Correia of nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of extortion conspiracy, and four counts of extortion.
With the combined charges, Correia potentially faces more than 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
According to the IRS, Correia was indicted in 2018 for wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and charges in a superseding indictment for extortion conspiracy, extortion, and other crimes.
IRS Assistant Special Agent in Charge David says elected officials are held to a higher standard and should set an example of honesty and adherence to the rule of law.
“As a business owner and mayor, Mr. Correia betrayed the trust of both his clients and the voters who put him in office,” says Toy. “The jury’s decision today will now hold him accountable for his actions. Today’s verdict proves that government employees, including elected officials, will be held accountable when they violate the public’s trust, particularly in the performance of their official duties.”
In 2012, Correia got seven individuals to invest approximately $360,000 in SnoOwl, his app to connect local businesses with target consumer markets.
According to the IRS, Correia used approximately 64 percent ($230,000 ) of the money to fund his lavish lifestyle, political career, and other business ventures.
Purchases included a Mercedes automobile, jewelry, designer clothing, airfare, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and adult entertainment.
Correia also used the money to pay down personal student loan debt, fund his political campaign, and make charitable donations in his name.
The IRS reports that Correia concealed his theft of investor funds by refusing to provide company financial records and giving false updates on SnoOwl’s status.
Correia also instructed an accountant to file amended 2013 and 2014 personal tax returns to attempt to hide his fraudulent activity from the IRS.
When Correia became Fall River Mayor in January 2016, he agreed to issue non-opposition letters to cannabis vendors in exchange for cash bribes and other payments.
Massachusetts law requires non-opposition letters from local government heads, such as Correia, for cannabis businesses to obtain licenses.
Cannabis business license applicants must also enter into community agreements to turn over 3 percent of gross sales to the local government.
According to the IRS, four cannabis vendors agreed to pay bribes ranging from $75,000 to $250,000 in the form of cash, campaign contributions, and mortgage discharges to Correia and his co-conspirators.
The bribes were in exchange for non-opposition letters and community host agreements.
Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division Joseph Bonavolonta says that the verdict in the case makes it crystal clear that officials cannot get away with trading on their office and embracing a “corrupt pay-to-play culture.”
“Jasiel Correia was only a two-term mayor, but he has done lasting damage to the trust bestowed upon him by the citizens of Fall River,” says Bonavolonta. “In lying to investors and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support his lavish lifestyle, he put his own selfish interests above those he was elected to serve.”
U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock has scheduled Correia’s sentencing for September 20, 2021.