A Democratic mayor from Massachusetts is in serious legal trouble this week after being implicated in the second major scandal of his less than four-year tenure.
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II was arrested by federal authorities in his home Friday and charged in a conspiracy to extort local marijuana vendors, according to Mass Live.
The two-term mayor, just 27 years old, allegedly worked with others on his staff to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gifts and even drug products in exchange for the official Fall River “non-opposition letters” required to own and establish a marijuana dispensary in the state.
According to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, “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 has been legal in the state since 2016 but, due to the difficulties involved in getting those letters of approval, only 24 dispensaries currently exist there — giving local officials like Correia a lot of leverage.
Staffers reportedly involved include former Chief of Staff Genoveva Andrade, “Antonio Costa, 51, of Fall River; Hildegar Camara, 58, of Fall River; and David Hebert, 54, of Westport.”
All parties were charged with extortion conspiracy, extortion and providing false statements to authorities. Correia and Andrade face a number of other charges including bribery and theft.
Correia entered a not guilty plea Friday afternoon, WPRI-TV reported. But he may be the only one, with MassLive suggesting at least three others have accepted plea deals with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
This is not the first time federal authorities have tried to catch Correia in the act.
He was arrested less than one year ago, pleading not guilty on charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns, according to Fox News. After a recall election, however, Correia returned to his seat for another go.
But Lelling says he is ready to see Fall River’s years of being run “as a pay-to-play” put to an end.
“When it comes to public corruption in Mass., this office is the primary deterrent,” Lelling told reporters Friday.
“I take that seriously, and we will continue to aggressively pursue corruption in local, city and state governments.”