Former Fall River Mayor Convicted of Extorting Marijuana Vendors and Defrauding Investors
BOSTON – Jasiel F. Correia II, the former Mayor of Fall River, Mass., was convicted by a federal jury today in connection with a scheme to defraud investors and extorting marijuana vendors for thousands of dollars.
Correia, 29, was convicted of nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of extortion conspiracy and four counts of extortion. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for Sept. 20, 2021.
Correia was first indicted on wire fraud and filing false tax returns in October 2018. He was subsequently charged in a superseding indictment in September 2019 with, among other crimes, extortion conspiracy and extortion.
“Jasiel Correia made many promises in business and politics, but today’s verdict speaks the truth: Correia defrauded people who trusted him, he lied on his taxes, and he extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes as the mayor of Fall River,” said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “With this prosecution, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has again fulfilled its role to find, investigate and prosecute public corruption in Massachusetts. We do not campaign, we do not run for office. We prosecute public corruption without fear or favor. The people of Massachusetts deserve a U.S. Attorney’s office that works that way, we are proud to do this work, and we’re not stopping.”
“Today’s verdict makes it crystal clear that you can’t trade on your office, embrace a corrupt pay-to-play culture and get away with it. Jasiel Correia was only a two-term mayor, but he has done lasting damage to the trust bestowed upon him by the citizens of Fall River,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “In lying to investors and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support his lavish lifestyle, he put his own selfish interests above those he was elected to serve. We thank the jurors for their service and thoughtful deliberations and remind the public that cases like this only fuel the FBI’s commitment to tackling public corruption at all levels of government.”
“Elected officials are rightly held to a higher standard and should set the example of honesty and adherence to the rule of law. As a business owner and as a mayor, Mr. Correia, betrayed the trust of both his clients and the voters who put him in office. The jury's decision today will now hold him accountable for his actions,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Toy of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. “Today’s verdict proves that government employees, including elected officials, will be held accountable when they violate the public's trust, particularly in the performance of their official duties.”
“Today’s verdict proves that government employees, including elected officials, will be held accountable when they violate the public's trust, particularly in the performance of their official duties,” said Massachusetts Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha.
In 2012, Correia founded SnoOwl, an app designed to connect local businesses with their target consumer market. Seven individuals invested a total of approximately $360,000 in SnoOwl. Correia used approximately $230,000 – 64% of the money invested – to fund his own lavish lifestyle, burgeoning political career and other business ventures. Specifically, Correia used the investment funds to purchase tens of thousands of dollars of luxury items, including a Mercedes, jewelry and designer clothing; to pay for personal travel and entertainment, including tens of thousands of dollars on airfare, hotels, restaurants, casinos and adult entertainment; to pay down personal student loan debt; to fund his political campaign; and to make charitable donations in his own name.
To conceal his theft of funds from investors, Correia refused to provide the company’s financial records and gave false positive updates on SnoOwl’s status. Additionally, in May 2017, Correia instructed an accountant to file amended 2013 and 2014 personal tax returns in an effort to conceal his fraudulent activity from the IRS.
After taking office as Fall River Mayor in January 2016, Correia agreed to issue non-opposition letters to marijuana vendors in return for cash bribes and other payments. 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. Correia, as Mayor, was solely responsible for approving all non-opposition letters in Fall River. 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.
Four marijuana vendors agreed to pay bribes ranging from over $75,000 up to $250,000 in cash, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges to Correia and his co-conspirators in return for non-opposition letters and host community agreements.
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 charge of filing false tax returns provides 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 and extortion conspiracy provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.\
Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell; FBI Boston SAC Bonavolonta; IRS-CI Assistant SAC Toy; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office; and Massachusetts Inspector General Cunha made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary Hafer, Chief of Mendell’s Criminal Division, and David Tobin, of Mendell’s Major Crimes Unit, are prosecuting the case.