Fall River’s Correia now faces charges of extortion of marijuana dispensaries

FALL RIVER – Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II has been charged with a slew of new allegations from federal prosecutors that claim Correia extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from marijuana dispensary companies seeking to do business in Fall River.

Correia’s new charges were rolled into a federal case against him related to his company SnoOwl that involved allegations of, among other things, false tax returns and wire fraud. which the government says amount to more than $600,000 worth of extorted proceeds.

The new charges allege that Correia and his co-conspirators lied to five potential marijuana vendors about a limit of the number or marijuana businesses in Fall River that could be permitted and pressed them for hundreds of thousands of dollars each in exchange for non-opposition letters.

Correia was responsible for approving all non-opposition letters in Fall River. Without one, a dispensary would not be approved, the charges said. Correia has issued 14 non-opposition letters to date, including two to his girlfriend’s brother, according to the charges.

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The U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts said that within months of becoming mayor in 2016, Correia began enriching himself by means of his office.

Correia allegedly asked companies for up to $250,000 for a non-opposition letter, receiving payments in cash and campaign donations.

Correia was said to have used middlemen to hide his involvement in the bribes.

In one scenario described by the federal government, it was alleged that he had a mayoral aide return bribe money to a middleman because he thought it was “fed money.”

In another allegation, the government alleged that Correia shook down a jeweler for bribes in exchange for work related to a city water line. Correia even allegedly received a “Batman” Rolex as part of the bribe.

The charges also include an allegation that Correia made an agreement with his Chief of Staff Genoveva Andrade, who allegedly worked with him in his extortion efforts, that in order for her to be appointed and to keep her job, she would give him $22,800 of her $78,780 salary. Andrade served as chief of staff from November 2017 through December 2018. She stepped down from her role to run Correia’s reelection campaign.

Following one alleged gathering of Correia, Andrade and a prospective dispensary operator that was alleged to result in a bribe to the mayor, Andrade was quoted as saying to the extorted, “You’re family now.”

Including the original set of charges, Correia now faces a count of wire fraud, a count of false tax returns, five counts of extortion conspiracy, five counts of extortion; aiding and abetting, one count of bribery, and faces a forfeiture allegation.

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. You may reach him at Bergenheim@PBN.com.

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