Former Mayor Wunderkind Faces Jury in Fraud, Bribery Case

Boston (AP) — Just 23 years after being elected mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, Jasiel Correia’s political career seemed to have no choice but to rise. Bright and dynamic, Correia captivated voters by portraying himself as a successful entrepreneur who could revive the struggling old factory town.

Prosecutors say he was actually a scam and a thief.

Correia will be tried this month on charges of stealing more than $ 230,000 from investors with a smartphone app created to pay for Mercedes, casino travel, adult entertainment and more. As mayor, he was accused of persuading his Chief of Staff to give him half of his salary to continue working in the city and forcing hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies trying to work there. I am.

The trial was one of the first in Boston’s federal court since the coronavirus pandemic began, and is still hurt by the collapse of the once booming text messaging industry in southeastern Massachusetts. Shows a dramatic rise and fall in Correia in the city 89,000. Prosecutors try to show that Correia is fooling investors, as critics say they have spoken smoothly to voters to entrust him to the city.

“My husband says it best: he was able to convince the Pope that there was no god,” said Fall River city councilman Linda Pereira, who lost Correia to the mayor who was reelected in 2017. Told.

The 29-year-old former mayor remains rebellious, even if Correia’s former chief of staff and three others plead guilty to the extortion program. He denied cheating, argued that apps designed to help businesses connect with consumers were legal, and accused political opponents of trying to defeat him.

The problem is as follows: Will he be in a position to persuade the jury? Correia’s name is on the defense’s list of witnesses, but it’s unclear if he will actually testify.

Correia has spoken frankly ever since, unlike many defendants who remain silent in court to say nothing that could be used against them. His 2018 arrest.. He explained PowerPoint’s presentation to reporters to refute the allegations a few days after the first accusation, and joined Mark Wahlberg’s executive in a documentary series about Correia’s turbulent political career. did.

“If I’m doing something wrong, come and catch me. Come on, do it. But I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. Correia spoke in a series called “Run This City,” which aired on Quibi, a streaming platform that was discontinued last year.

“I’m not guilty until I’m guilty, and I’m not guilty,” he said.

Judge selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Correia faces crimes such as wire fraud, blackmail plots, and bribes.

His lawyer declined to comment on the Associated Press, but the indictment had previously stated that it “reads like a bad John Grisham fiction,” and told the prosecutor that “both confirmation and physical evidence are legitimate witnesses.” No, “he said.

After Correia became a city council member at the age of 22, the city’s local newspaper, Herald News, Explained him As “a classic example of how a Fall River kid worked”.

Correia was at the center of media frenzy in 2014 when Mayor Wilflanagan claimed to have threatened him with a gun during a late-night meeting over Correia’s support for the mayor’s petition for recall. Flanagan had never faced a criminal accusation, but was recalled in that year’s elections and replaced the county district attorney. Correia will be defended in court by the same lawyer representing Flanagan during the investigation.

In a 2015 race with Mayor Samsatter, Correia promoted an app called SnoOwl that leverages social media to reach voters. Vowed to attract young residents We will change the brand of the city with the motto “Let’s try”. Satter asked a few questions about Correia’s business, but said he regrets not catching the issue during the race.

“Jaciel claimed he was a millionaire entrepreneur when he wasn’t, and it’s a kind of my own fault because I couldn’t expose it. I knew SnoOwl was a bust. “

Three years before Correia became mayor, officials said he started looking for investors at startups, promised not to get paid, and had already sold another app for big profits. Prosecutors say that within weeks of receiving a $ 50,000 check from an investor, Koreia used the $ 10,000 to buy a Mercedes sedan.

Over the next few months, prosecutors say Koreia used investor cash to pay for dating services, luxury hotels, designer wear, reduce student loan debt, and support political careers. .. Overall, prosecutors claim that he spent nearly two-thirds of the more than $ 360,000 he took for himself from investors.

Correia resisted the call to resign for several months after his arrest and survived the strange elections of March 2019. Meanwhile, he was recalled to voters and re-elected the same night.But after a federal agent Arrested him again —This time for extortion plans — he agreed to take leave in October 2019. He was banished to voters the following month.

As the mayor, Correia has been accused of demanding a bribe from a marijuana company in exchange for a city approval to obtain a license. According to officials, Correia or his associates have negotiated bribes with company owners at places such as the fashionable Boston Steakhouse, cigar bars, and Dunkin’Donuts.

“You are now a family member,” Correia’s chief of staff, Genoveba Andrade, told one of them after agreeing to bribe at the 2018 meeting, officials said in court documents.

In another case, the prosecutor said the middleman left an envelope filled with $ 25,000 in cash from a marijuana business owner in a hut behind Correia’s aide’s house. Officials say Correia was afraid that it was “Fed money” and that his aide later returned the money to the middleman.

Three of Correia’s companions who were found guilty of the extortion program are among those who could testify to him.

On the other hand, at Fall River, many people are watching over the former mayor who feels hurt.

“A local who I personally know shouted at me how stupid he felt this kid put him in a pinch,” said city councilman Pereira.

“I said,’What do you know? He convinced the whole community, so don’t feel that way,” she said.