Ex-Mayor, Elected at 23, Gets 6 Years in Corruption Case After Prosecutors Asked for 11

A former Massachusetts mayor, elected at 23 years old, was sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday in a corruption case after prosecutors asked for 11.

Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia was convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses seeking a license to operate in the city. Prosecutors say that after becoming mayor in 2016, he started a pay-to-play scheme that involved bribes from marijuana vendors in exchange for letters of approval from the city.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Hafer asked for a sentence of 11 years in prison and questioned how anything other than greed and hubris could explain Correia's actions, as the former mayor had support from his family and plenty of income from his job. Prosecutors called the corruption scheme particularly galling because Correia already knew he was under investigation for allegations of investor fraud at the time.

"The cash in clipboards and in envelopes and sheds...Fall River under Jasiel Correia was like Atlantic City during Prohibition in terms of the crudeness of the corruption," Hafer said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Ex-Mayor sentenced in corruption case
A former Massachusetts mayor was sentenced to six years in prison in a corruption case after prosecutors asked for 11. Jasiel Correia was convicted of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana vendors in exchange for permission to operate in his city. Getty Images

Correia showed no emotion as the judge handed down his punishment after tossing several convictions stemming from allegations that the now 29-year-old swindled investors who backed a smartphone app he created.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock assailed Correia's actions as old-style corruption that eviscerates a community. Under Correia's watch, "City Hall was for sale," said the judge, who also criticized his "absolute lack of remorse."

"If we can't trust each other, if we can't trust our government, where are we?" the judge asked.

Correia, who has insisted that he's innocent and that the "real truth" will eventually come out, did not make a statement during the hearing in Boston federal court because he's still challenging his remaining convictions.

The defense had sought three years, telling the judge that while there's no "sugarcoating" the case, Correia also did much good for Fall River.

"None of that excuses what happened here, but I think it's required to have a fuller picture of the man and to understand how somebody might get derailed but still have hope to contribute in a future chapter of life," Attorney William Fick said.

Correia is expected to report to prison at a later date that has yet to be decided.

Correia was convicted in May of a slew of charges including fraud and extortion after a trial that shone a light on his meteoric rise to become mayor as a recent college graduate. Correia portrayed himself to voters as a successful entrepreneur who could breathe new life into the struggling, old mill city.

Prosecutors told jurors that in reality, Corriea funded his lavish lifestyle with money he stole from investors who pumped cash into his app called "SnoOwl," which was designed to help businesses connect with consumers. Prosecutors said Correia took nearly two-thirds of the almost $400,000 he got from investors and spent it on things like fancy hotels and a Mercedes and to pay down his student loans.

Correia told reporters outside the courthouse after his conviction that "the justice system failed us" and that he had turned down a plea deal because, he said: "I'm not guilty." Both the prosecutor and Correia's trial attorney said Tuesday that Correia was never offered a plea agreement.

Correia was supposed to have been sentenced Monday, but the judge instead agreed with new lawyers hired by Correia after the trial to overturn the jury's guilty verdict on several counts they said the government failed to prove.

The judge agreed to toss six counts of wire fraud because of what he described as a lack of evidence about how the checks were processed. He also tossed two tax fraud counts because he said prosecutors didn't prove that Correia willfully filed false returns.

Correia remains convicted of several counts of wire fraud, extortion and extortion conspiracy. The jury acquitted him on three counts, including accusations that he forced his chief of staff to give him half of her salary in order to keep her city job.

For months after his arrest, Correia resisted calls to leave office and survived a bizarre election in March 2019 during which he was recalled by voters and reelected the same night. But after federal agents arrested him a second time—this time for the extortion scheme—he agreed in October 2019 to take a leave of absence. He was ousted by voters the next month.

Jasiel Correia
Former Fall River, Massachusetts Mayor Jasiel Correia, who was elected at the age of 23, had eight charges against him dropped. Above, Correia leaves the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse on September 20, 2021, in Boston. Josh Reynolds/AP Photo