For the second time in significantly less than a year, federal authorities arrested Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II on Friday amid new allegations the 27-year-old extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from potential regional marijuana vendors with the assist of close associates.
Prosecutors say Correia made use of his workplace to squeeze money out of marijuana companies seeking to open in the city, granting them the non-opposition letters they expected to operate their retailers in exchange for hefty sums of money, in between 2016 and 2018.
At other instances, he extorted a developing owner for money and a “Batman” Rolex watch in exchange for city permits and help with activating the water provide to a private house, officials say. Correia also demanded his chief of employees give him half of her $78,780 salary in order for her to maintain her job, an indictment unsealed Friday in Boston Federal Court alleges.
“Despite Mayor Correia’s public assurances to the City of Fall River, primarily based on today’s indictment, he has primarily run that town as a spend-to-play institution,” Massachusetts U.S. Lawyer Andrew Lelling mentioned at a press conference Friday.
The 11 charges — which consist of extortion conspiracy and bribery — compound on other allegations brought final year against the young Democrat, who prosecutors allege defrauded investors in his SnoOwl mobile app and filed false tax returns.
In total, Correia, arrested at his property Friday morning, now faces two dozen charges in federal court.
Authorities have also charged various of his alleged co-conspirators, such as his former chief of employees, Genoveva Andrade, 48, of Somerset, who was arrested in Boston Friday for extortion conspiracy, extortion, theft and bribery, and false statements, according to Lelling’s workplace.
Antonio Costa, 51, of Fall River, Hildegar Camara, 58, of Fall River, and David Hebert, 54, of Westport, had been each and every charged separately in informations with extortion, extortion conspiracy, and false statements “in connection with subsequent false statements to federal agents about their roles in assisting Correia acquire dollars and house from marijuana vendors,” Lelling’s workplace mentioned in a statement.
All 3 will accept plea agreements, court records show.
Correia was arraigned Friday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“I’ve performed practically nothing but very good for the wonderful City of Fall River … and I’m going to continue to do wonderful issues for our city and that is all I have to say,” he told reporters outdoors the courthouse.
— Stefan Geller (@StefanGeller) September 6, 2019
Correia was released on a $250,000 bond and is expected to spend 10 % of that quantity by Tuesday.
His lawyer, Kevin Reddington, mentioned Correia appears forward to taking the case to trial.
Andrade, who stepped down from her post in December to turn out to be Correia’s campaign manager, also created an initial look in court Friday and was released on a $150,000 bond.
Genoveva Andrade right here for initial look, Correia’s chief of employees. She’s charged with extortion, extortion conspiracy, theft and bribery, & false statements. She will not be held. Circumstances: $150k unsecured bond, restricted travel to MA & RI, no speak to with victims. @ABC6
— Amanda Pitts (@APittsABC6) September 6, 2019
The charges, which come six months right after Correia was recalled and re-elected as mayor on the very same evening, also arrive on the heels of a different controversy for Correia, who was criticized final month for awarding two of the 14 non-opposition letters he has issued to date to his girlfriend’s brother.
“The optics are poor by these that are detractors, but the reality is there’s practically nothing incorrect with what we did,” he told The Boston Globe at the time. “I wouldn’t do something that I really feel puts Fall River in a undesirable light due to the fact of the scrutiny and microscope that I’m at the moment beneath.”
Here’s are the allegations against Correia:
Correia took ‘between $100,000 and $200,000 in money, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges’ from marijuana vendors, officials say
As Fall River’s chief executive, Correia has the duty of issuing non-opposition letters to potential marijuana companies — a important step in generating any retail shop or health-related dispensary a reality.
The letters primarily state that each and every proposed facility’s place is in a permissible zoning district and that the place has been verified by the mayor, officials mentioned.
Company owners need to also negotiate a host neighborhood agreement with the city in which a corporation agrees to give the government up to 3 % of its total sales and an annual payment of up to $50,000
“The method beneath which the regional head of government has sole and total discretion in the granting of non-opposition letters, I consider it is quick to predict that would be an location that would invite this sort of petty corruption, and that is one thing that we’re concerned about,” Lelling told reporters.
Joseph Bonavolonta, specific agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston branch, mentioned the 3-year investigation “brought to light specific revelations of the marijuana sector in Fall River.”
“In lots of methods, it is the best storm for corruption,” he added.
In the superseding indictment unsealed this week, authorities allege Correia extorted at least 4 marijuana vendors beginning in July 2016.
When arrangements with each and every small business varied, prosecutors say Correia scooped up “between $100,000 and $200,000 in money, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges — in return for non-opposition letters and host neighborhood agreements,” according to Lelling’s workplace. “Marijuana was also exchanged for resale.”
“In 1 instance, the vendor agreed to have his good friends and family members make donations to Correia’s mayoral campaign, amounting to more than $12,000,” Lelling mentioned. “In a different, Correia allegedly merely showed up at a vendor’s spot of small business with his chief of employees and asked for $250,000 in exchange for a non-opposition letter.”
According to the indictment, when the vendor asked why the payment was so high priced, Correia allegedly mentioned the dollars was for his legal charges. Soon after the price tag was negotiated, Andrade allegedly told the vendor, “You’re family members now,” files show.
Correia also mentioned he would halve the company’s $50,000 host neighborhood agreement payment if the corporation gave Correia a different $25,000 on major of their negotiated $150,000 bribe, prosecutors allege.
“Several days later, on or about July five, 2018, Correia came to (the vendor’s) small business in his official automobile and instructed (the vendor) to get inside,” the indictment says. “Once inside, (the vendor) gave Correia $75,000 in money in a contractor’s clipboard. Upon getting the money, Correia handed (the vendor) a non-opposition letter.”
Correia got a Rolex watch and money for activating the water provide to a industrial developing, prosecutors allege
In January 2017, Correia was provided a “Batman” Rolex watch — a reference to its blue and black bezel — valued in between $7,500 and $12,000 by a Fall River house owner and buddy of Correia that prosecutors refer to as “Middleman #1.”
Authorities allege the watch was compensation for Correia “directing Fall River public staff to approve and spend for permits and excavating operate to activate the water line for the sprinkler method at Middleman #1’s industrial house,” Lelling’s workplace mentioned.
In July 2017, Correia’s campaign, which rented workplace space from Middleman #1 at a different place, offered Middleman #1 with a $three,900 verify for rent and in turn received the dollars back in money, according to the indictment.
“Middleman #1 understood that this money payment to Correia was a aspect of the stream of added benefits he agreed to spend to Correia in exchange for favorable officials action and help from the Mayor,” the indictment says.
About two months later, the excavator who completed the operate was paid $7,950 by the City of Fall River, prosecutors mentioned.
Correia allegedly expected his chief of employees to kick back half of her salary to him
In November 2017, Correia brought on Andrade as his chief of employees with a salary of about $78,780 for a 1-year term, officials say.
But in exchange for carrying out so, the two agreed Andrade would kick back half of her salary, whilst also getting a $10,000 city-funded “snow stipend” that Correia planned to kick back to her, the indictment says.
Eventually, Andrade gave back a lot of the stipend to Correia as properly as her paychecks — a pattern that lasted eight months, according to the indictment.
In August 2018, when she met with a marijuana vendor who was upset at her that Correia also gave a non-opposition letter to a nearby small business, she mentioned, “in sum and substance, ‘That’s bull****, there are lots of sleazy issues the mayor has going on,” the indictment says.
“You want to hear one thing even additional f***** up … I have to give (Correia) half of my salary,” Andrade allegedly added.
Lelling, whose workplace has brought two higher-profile corruption instances in the final 3 weeks alone, mentioned prosecutors will continue their investigation in Fall River.
“If you are seeking for a theme there is 1: Public officials even in seemingly minor roles can have tremendous energy more than the lives of private citizens,” he mentioned. “If you have that energy and you use it to exploit private citizens or to line your personal pockets, we will prosecute you.”