Fall River Mayor Charged with Extorting Marijuana Vendors for Cash
Four others, including former chief of staff, also charged today
BOSTON – Jasiel F. Correia II, the Mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, has been arrested and charged for allegedly extorting marijuana vendors for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes; extorting a building owner for cash and a Rolex watch in exchange for activating the water supply to a commercial building; and demanding that his chief of staff give him half of her salary in return for appointing her and allowing her to keep her city job. Correia’s former Chief of Staff was also charged today on extortion, theft and bribery, and false statement charges. Both will appear in federal court today.
Correia, 27, has been charged in a superseding indictment with bribery; extortion conspiracy; extortion and aiding and abetting; wire fraud; and filing false tax returns. Correia was previously arrested and charged in October 2018 for his involvement in a scheme to defraud investors in a company called SnoOwl, which was co-owned by Correia. Correia was arrested this morning and will appear in federal court today at 2:30 p.m. on the new charges.
Genoveva Andrade, 48, of Somerset, was charged in a criminal complaint with extortion conspiracy; extortion; theft and bribery; and false statements. Andrade served as Correia’s Chief of Staff from November 2017 through December 2018. She stepped down in January 2019 to run Correia’s March 2019 recall campaign. Andrade was arrested and will appear in federal court at 2:45 p.m. today.
Antonio Costa, 51, of Fall River; Hildegar Camara, 58, of Fall River; and David Hebert, 54, of Westport were charged separately in Informations with extortion conspiracy, extortion, and false statements in connection with subsequent false statements to federal agents about their roles in assisting Correia obtain money and property from marijuana vendors. Costa, Camara and Hebert will appear in court at a later date.
According to the superseding indictment, Correia agreed to issue non-opposition letters to marijuana vendors, which are required in order to operate in Massachusetts, in return for cash bribes and other payments. The bribes alleged today ranged from approximately $100,000 to $250,000 in cash, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges - in return for non-opposition letters and host community agreements. Marijuana was also exchanged for resale. It is alleged that Andrade and Correia met with marijuana vendors and discussed signing non-opposition letters in return for cash.
Under Massachusetts law, non-opposition letters from the head of local government are required in order to obtain a license to operate a marijuana business. This is true for medical and recreational marijuana businesses. These letters state that the head of local government has verified that the proposed facility is in a permissible zoning district. In this instance, Correia was solely responsible for approving all non-opposition letters. 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% of its gross sales to the local government.
To date, Correia has issued at least 14 non-opposition letters for marijuana businesses to operate in Fall River, including two for his current girlfriend’s brother. On August 12, 2019, the Fall River City Council passed an ordinance to limit the number of marijuana licenses in Fall River to 20% of off-premise liquor licenses or 11, whichever is greater. On August 19, 2019, Correia vetoed the order, claiming that it would eliminate competition and that a proponent of the ordinance had a conflict of interest.
It is further alleged that Correia obtained a stream of benefits, including cash and a Rolex watch valued at approximately $7,500 – $12,000, in exchange for official action and assistance that was favorable to Middleman #1 and his business(es) in Fall River. This included directing Fall River public employees to approve and pay for permits and excavating work to activate the water line for the sprinkler system at Middleman #1’s commercial property in Fall River.
Lastly - according to the indictment, in November 2017, Correia hired Andrade as his Chief of Staff with a salary of approximately $78,780 for a term of one year. Less than three weeks later, Correia personally approved a $10,000 “snow stipend” to Andrade. She would receive the $10,000 payment in two installments. After she received the first installment of $5,353, Andrade allegedly gave Correia $4,300. After she received the second installment - of $5,353, Andrade again paid Correia $4,300.
This pattern, in which Andrade promptly kicked back a substantial portion of her paychecks to Correia, continued for approximately eight months. For instance, Andrade received her first paycheck for $2,046. Four days later, Andrade gave Correia $1,200. In total, between December 2017 and July 2018, Andrade kick back approximately $22,800 to Correia. Andrade shared information about the kickback scheme with MJ Vendor #5 allegedly saying, “you want to hear something even more f**ked up … I have to give [Correia] half of my salary.”
The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, a fine of up to twice the loss involved and restitution. The charges of filing false tax returns provide for a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. The charges of extortion conspiracy provide for a sentence of up to 20 years, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The charges of extortion aiding and abetting provide for a sentence of up to 20 years, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The bribery charge provides for a sentence of up to 10 years, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office; and Glenn A. Cunha, Massachusetts Inspector General made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer, Chief of Lelling’s Criminal Division, is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.