A Democratic mayor from Massachusetts was arrested Friday on charges that he conspired to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies seeking to operate marijuana businesses.
Federal authorities say Fall River Democratic Mayor Jasiel Correia accepted cash bribes in exchange for issuing official letters needed to obtain a license to set up a pot business.
The Department of Justice states that at least four business owners paid a total of $600,000 in bribes to the mayor — and he used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle and cover his own mounting legal bills.
Four others connected to Correia and his corrupt circle were also arrested as part of the operation.
“Without hesitation, Mayor Correia was extorting marijuana vendor after marijuana vendor,” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said after the mayor’s arrest.
“It’s striking the lengths he went to get the money, and the seeming indifference with how overt his activities were,” Lelling added.
Correia, 27, agreed to sign non-opposition letters, which the state requires before approving a marijuana business’s license, in exchange for six-figure payments from four vendors who wanted to start operations in the city south of Boston.
“I’m not guilty of these charges,” he told reporters after pleading not guilty at his arraignment. “I’ve done nothing but good for the great city of Fall River, me and my staff, and my team. I’m going to continue to do great things for our citizens.”
Correia, a Democrat, is also accused of extorting a property owner out of thousands of dollars in cash and a Rolex watch to turn on his building’s water supply and demanding his chief of staff give him half of her salary for her to keep her city job.
Correia was charged with defrauding investors of an app he co-owns in October 2018 after he allegedly embezzled funds to pay for his political career and “lavish lifestyle.”
Between the two arrests, Correia faces 24 counts for bribery, extortion conspiracy, extortion and aiding and abetting, wire fraud, and filing false tax returns.
In addition to the bribes, prosecutors said an associate of Correia’s was promised profits from marijuana sales. Another middleman allegedly received as much as 15 pounds of marijuana to sell as well as an amount of cash.
This is the second high-profile Democrat to be arrested and charged by the Trump administration in recent months.
In June, former State Department employee Candace Claiborne, who was hired under former President Bill Clinton, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and smacked with a $40,000 fine.
While working under former President Barack Obama, Claiborne admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, concealing contact with foreign spies, obstructing an official proceeding, and making false statements to the FBI.
Claiborne, a 60-year-old veteran State Department employee, possessed a Top Secret security clearance and concealed her extensive contacts with Chinese intelligence agents.
Chinese spies lavished Claiborne with thousands of dollars in gifts as part of a pay-for-play scheme.
Prosecutors said she also tried to hide evidence of her crimes from investigators after Trump took office.
Claiborne began working as an Office Management Specialist for the Department of State in 1999, which is when former President Clinton was in office.
She worked at the State Department up until her indictment, including when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state between 2009 and 2012.
Now, she’s going to prison for three and a half years after admitting to treason and selling out her country.