Fall River, Massachusetts mayor was arrested yesterday on charges for conspiracy to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from cannabis business permit applicants.
Jasiel “Jassy” Correia accepted bribes in exchange for official “non-opposition” letters which approved the companies to operate legal cannabis businesses. Correia turned the city’s budding cannabis industry into a pay-for-play, accepting a total of $600,000 from at least 4 businessmen.
The non-opposition letters are required by state law to verify that the business is in a permissible zoning district.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and IRS. Last month, the FBI issued a statement requesting tips on public corruption in the cannabis industry.
“Without hesitation, Mayor Correia was extorting marijuana vendor after marijuana vendor,” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said following Correia’s arrest on Friday, September 6th.
One bribe was left behind Correia’s shed at his residence, by request of the mayor’s aide. Correia allegedly turned down the $25,000 cash bribe; the aide told the businessman who withdrew the money from his bank that Correia feared it was “Fed money.”
In another instance, Correia walked into an applicant’s office and outright asked for $250,000 to issue an approval letter. Correia was also paid $75,000 in cash while sitting in the backseat of a car, then immediately handed over the signed letter, says Lelling.
Correia also accepted cash and a $10,000 Batman Rolex from a property owner. The Batman Rolex is named for its blue and black watch face which matches the incognito vigilante’s garb.
Of the 14 letters penned by Correia, two signed letters were issued to his girlfriend’s brother. It has not been disclosed whether the brother’s letters were granted under illegal circumstances.
Four other associates of the mayor are being charged in the indictment for extortion and bribery, including former chief of staff Genoveva Andrade. The mayor allegedly required that Andrade gave him half of her salary.
According to the indictment, last summer, Andrade told a marijuana vendor, “there are lots of sleazy things the mayor has going on” adding that Correia had a safe with “hundreds of thousands” of dollars from bribes.
The charges come after the FBI issued a request for information about cannabis industry corruption.
Correia called the charges “politically motivated” and plead not guilty.