Judge: Sealed Court Docs in Fall River Marijuana Scandal May Be Released to State
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission may review sealed court documents naming five marijuana companies involved in a federal bribery case against former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia, a judge has ruled.
Correia is the subject of a federal indictment, and is accused of receiving nearly $600,000 in bribes in exchange for mayoral approval for five marijuana companies to conduct business in the city. The names of the marijuana vendors involved in the alleged bribery scheme have not been made public.
Up until now, documents detailing communication between the five companies and Correia have been sealed from public view due to a protective order issued in Boston's federal courthouse in December of 2018. The order was agreed to by both prosecutors and lawyers for the defense.
Now, the state's cannabis commission will be able to take a look at that information. The commission wants to see whether any companies who have licenses, or are seeking licenses in Fall River, may have acted improperly, court records suggest.
US District Judge Douglas Woodlock agreed to let the commission review information about the five companies so it can “perform its legitimate regulatory duties.”
The news from Boston does not necessarily mean that the public will gain access to the information. A brief filed on behalf of the commission by US Attorney Andrew J. Lelling states that if the commission ever wants to make the information public, it will ask permission from the court first. The commission may, however, publicly disclose that a company has "no suitability concerns" in receiving a license.
The Cannabis Control Commission has the power to revoke or suspend a license if a person or organization associated with a marijuana establishment has “committed, permitted, aided, or abetted any illegal practices in its operations.”
Correia was arrested on September 6, 2019, and 11 new charges were added to a previous 2018 federal indictment. After many twists and turns, Correia, who was first elected in 2015, was defeated at the ballot box in 2019 by Mayor Paul Coogan. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is scheduled to go on trial in May.
Prosecutors say Correia issued 14 "letters of non-opposition" to marijuana firms, including two for his girlfriend’s brother. The Fall River Herald News previously identified the girlfriend’s brother, who received two non-opposition letters, as New Leaf Enterprises president Pedro “Peter” Fernandes.
Loop Cultivation is another business that has been linked to the case by reporters. The wife of that vendor was fined $5,000 for illegal donations to Correia, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Proxies or individuals associated with Hope Heal Health and Northeast Alternatives entities have also contributed to Correia, MassLive has reported.