Lelling Explains New Charges Against Embattled Fall River Mayor
FALL RIVER — U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling has laid out a new slate of federal charges against embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia.
“Almost a year ago, I announced federal fraud charges against Fall river Mayor Jasiel Correia. Well, now we’re back,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said to open up a Friday morning press conference to discuss the new charges levied against Correia.
“He has essentially run that town as a ‘pay-to-play’ institution.”
A 42-page federal indictment says Correia conspired to receive kickbacks from recreational marijuana dispensaries applying for a license in Fall River, and even conspired to extort his own Chief of Staff.
In order for the recreational vendors to be permitted to business in the City of Fall River, the law requires the head of municipal government, in this case being Correia, to submit a letter of non-opposition. The indictment alleges Correia extorted these marijuana vendors for $250,000 each to grant a non-opposition letter them.
“From 2016 to 2018, he did this to at least four separate would-be marijuana vendors in Fall River. Total agreed payments to Correia topped $600,000, structured in various ways. All involved cash payments. Some involved Correia and his co-conspirators getting a cut from future marijuana sales,” Lelling said.
“In one instance, the vendor agreed to have his friends and family make donations to Correia’s mayoral campaign amounting to over $12,000. In another, Correia allegedly simply showed up at a vendor’s place of business with his Chief of Staff and asked for $250,000 in exchange for a non-opposition letter. In another instance, Correia was allegedly handed $75,000 in cash in the back of a car, after which he handed over a non-opposition letter in an envelope.”
Four of Correia’s associates were also arrested, including his former Chief of Staff, Genoveva Andrade, also on extortion and bribery charges. The indictment says Correia extorted Andrade into giving up half of her $78,000 salary “paycheck by paycheck” to keep her job. Genoveva then allegedly conspired with Correia to extort a $150,000 bribe from one of the marijuana dispensaries, to which Correia told her “you’re part of the family now.”
“In approximately November of 2017, as a condition of getting and keeping her job, his Chief of Staff allegedly agreed to give Correia about half of her $78,000 salary paycheck by paycheck,” Lelling explained.
Hildigar Camara, Tony Costa and David Hebert are charged along with Andrade with extortion. The group conspired with Correia in numerous ways to extort these vendors and ultimately steal money meant for the City of Fall River.
“Hildigar Camara, employed in Correia’s administration, conspired with Correia to extort marijuana vendors. Tony Costa, who owns several properties in Fall River, is also a friend of Correia’s and also wokred with Correia to extort marijuana vendors. Same for David Hebert, who also owns real estate in Fall River. He also conspired with Correia in his allefed pay-to-play activities. Finally, Genoveva Andrade, arrested this morning, is Correia’s former Chief of Staff. She also conspired with Correia to extort marijuana vendors,” said Lelling.
“Moreover, all four of these defendants are charged with providing false statements to federal investigators over the course of our investigation.”
Lelling says the corruption also affected the City of Fall River when Correia promised to reduce three-percent tax collected by the City in exchange for a $25,000 payment.
Before handing the podium over the heads of the other federal agencies involved in the investigation, Lelling closed out his portion of the press conference by recalling the recent public corruption cases he’s prosecuted across the state, saying “If you’re looking for theme, there is one.”
“Public officials, even in seemingly minor roles, can have tremendous power over the lives of private citizens. if you have that power and you use it to extort private citizens. If you have that power and you use it to exploit private citizens or line your own pockets, we will prosecute you,” stated Lelling.
“When it comes to public corruption in Massachusetts, this office is the primary, often the only deterrent to that criminal conduct. I take that role seriously. We will continue to pursue corruption, regardless of political party, at all levels of government in Massachusetts to local, city and state.”
In October of 2018, federal agents arrested Correia on a separate, and still pending, 12-count indictment for defrauding investors the SnoOwl app he created.