Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia Has Been Arrested… Again

This time he's charged with allegedly extorting marijuana companies.

2016 photo via AP/Stephan Savoia

Strolling into a prospective marijuana business and asking for a $250,000 bribe to secure a non-opposition letter. Accepting a Rolex “Batman” watch valued at up to $12,000 in exchange for work permits at a construction site. Making his chief of staff pay him half her $78,000 salary in order to keep her job.

Those are the allegations outlined Friday in a lengthy indictment against Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, as investigators paint a picture of an outlandishly corrupt tenure under the 27-year-old politician. Correia was arrested on felony charges Friday, his second time in cuffs in less than a year. He faces conspiracy, extortion, and bribery charges in schemes dating back to 2013, when he took office at age 21, and is accused of filing false tax documents to cover his tracks. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“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, victimizing not only the specific people noted in the indictment, but the residents of the city that he is supposed to lead,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a late-morning press conference.

In total, Correia is accused of extorting some $600,000 from constituents in exchange for using his office to grant permits and approvals. The allegations include soliciting payments to provide so-called non-opposition letters to marijuana businesses, documents those companies require to operate in the city and which need sign-off directly from the mayor. Correia is also accused of making his former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, pay him half her $78,000 salary in regular increments in order to keep her job. Andrade has also been charged as part of the investigation, as were three other apparent associates of Correia’s. The three alleged co-conspirators—Hildegar Camara, Antonio Costa, and David Hebert—have accepted plea deals, MassLive reports.

The indictment includes statements from Andrade during a lunch with a marijuana vendor, in which she said that “there are lots of sleazy things the mayor has going on.” According to the court documents, she also said Correia kept a safe stuffed with “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in bribe money.

“Often in public corruption cases, the corruption expands to involve more people than just a particular public official, because it’s hard for a high profile public official, like a mayor, to pull this kind of thing off on his or her own,” Lelling said. “Cases like this one show the price of conspiring with public officials, and remaining loyal to them.”

Correia was first arrested and charged in 2018 following allegations he defrauded investors in an app company and improperly enriched himself. He has professed his innocence and dismissed the charges as “politically motivated.” He is also in the midst of a campaign. Voters will go to the polls for a preliminary election, in which Correia faces two challengers, on September 17. Earlier this year, he survived a recall effort when, in a highly unusual turn of events, he was both recalled and re-elected by voters in the same election.

Correia also tangled with others in Fall River government in recent months. At a city council meeting in August, he caused a ruckus when he showed up uninvited. His colleagues earlier criticized him for a trip he took, unannounced, to Las Vegas (a Fall River resident spotted him hanging out by a hotel pool). Correia had been facing scrutiny in recent weeks after his office granted city approvals for two dispensaries to a marijuana company run by his girlfriend’s brother, without recusing himself.