A former mayor of a city in Massachusetts was charged with extorting prospective cannabis business owners, among other charges, and sentenced to numerous years in prison.
Jasiel F. Correia II, former mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, first took on the role at 23 years of age in 2016. During his time as mayor, he allegedly committed numerous acts of greed and corruption. Federal Judge Douglas Woodlock announced his ruling on September 21, assigning Correia to six years in prison and three additional years of supervised release.
The 29-year-old was initially convicted of his crime in May 2021 on “nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of extortion conspiracy and four counts of extortion,” according to an official press release from the United States Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts. According to Forbes, Correia committed wire fraud, extortion and accepted bribes from local cannabis businesses in exchange for business licenses.
“Jasiel Correia was a corrupt and deceitful politician who could only be stopped by federal prosecution. Now he is a felon and will be a federal inmate,” said Acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Nathaniel R. Mendell, in a press release. “Mr. Correia lied to investors, sold his office, and has no remorse for his crimes. That warrants a significant prison term, which is why the government recommended an 11-year sentence.”
Massachusetts Asks for Accountability
Massachusetts law states that in order to obtain a license to operate a cannabis business, the head of the local government must issue a non-opposition letter. “Correia, as Mayor, was solely responsible for approving all non-opposition letters in Fall River,” a press release confirmed.
“In addition, applicants seeking marijuana licenses are required to enter into host community agreements between the marijuana company and the local government, stating that the company will give up to 3 percent of its gross sales to the local government.” A total of four individuals paid Correia between $75,000 and $250,000 in either “cash, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges” in order to receive non-opposition letters.
Prior to his role as mayor, Correia also lied to investors with an app called “SnoOwl” that he founded in 2012 prior to his role as mayor. According to a press release, he accepted an estimated $360,000 from seven individuals. Of that sum, he used $230,000 (approximately 64 percent) to purchase luxury items, a Mercedes, designer clothing, jewelry, paid his student loans, funded his political campaign and more.
Correia allegedly portrayed himself as a fellow entrepreneur leader as mayor, and offered to renew the old city. Correia’s defense attorney, William Fick, argued that despite the charges, Correia brought positive change to the city of Fall River.
“None of that excuses what happened here, but I think it’s required to have a fuller picture of the man and to understand how somebody might get derailed but still have hope to contribute in a future chapter of life,” Fick said, according to the Associated Press. Correia told reporters that “the justice system failed us” and claimed that he was not guilty.
Individuals from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided statements against Correia, having viewed the evidence of his actions.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Boston Division, commented on how Correia’s actions have damaged the city of Fall River, and the citizen’s trust in local government.
“Jasiel Correia’s conscious decision to fleece investors, extort hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and cheat on his taxes has now cost him his freedom. He has proven to be a pervasive liar who has shown absolutely no remorse or empathy for his victims, and today he has been held accountable.
Sadly, his actions have further eroded the public’s trust in government, and deeply hurt the citizens of Fall River,” said Bonavolonta. “Let his sentence serve as a stark reminder that if you commit crimes, your status as an elected official will not protect you. The FBI is committed to rooting out public corruption and holding officials like him accountable.”
Likewise, Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, Boston Field Office, reviewed the damage Correia caused. “As the Mayor of Fall River, Jasiel Correia held the public’s trust in his hands and was positioned to serve those individuals that elected him.
Instead, he squandered that opportunity and was exposed as a corrupt politician,” said Simpson. “It is a shame that an individual with such a bright future decided to misuse his elected office for personal gain. Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that corrupt public officials will pay dearly for the choices they make.”