Fall River, MA – The mayor of Fall River was removed from office on Tuesday in the wake of his arrest for taking massive bribes in exchange for helping marijuana businesses get licensed.
Prosecutors said that 27-year-old Mayor Jasiel Correia II has issued at least 14 non-opposition letters since he took office in 2015, USA Today reported.
Two of the letters were for his girlfriend’s brother.
The letters are necessary for Massachusetts licensure for marijuana dispensaries and prosecutors said that Correia was taking big bribes for his assistance, USA Today reported.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Massachusetts since 2013, and recreational use became legal in 2018.
Prosecutors said that Correia, a Democrat, began “monetizing his official position” just a few months after he was elected mayor of Fall River.
The indictment said the mayor extorted $250,000 each from two vendors, $150,000 from a third vendor, and another $100,000 from a fourth in exchange for his signature on their letters, USA Today reported.
It also said one of the vendors agreed to pay the mayor in profits from his future marijuana business.
In another case, 12 to 15 pounds of marijuana was exchanged for resale.
“I’m not guilty of these charges,” Correia told reporters outside federal court on Friday, according to USA Today. “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.”
He was also accused of taking $3,900 in cash and “Batman” Rolex watch worth up to $12,000 from a property owner so that the water supply to the property owner’s building could be turned on, USA Today reported.
Prosecutors said Correia made his chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, give him half of her $78,700 salary for appointing her to the position and allowing her to keep the job.
Andrade and three others have also been charged with federal crimes, USA Today reported.
Correia was already facing 13 federal charges.
He was arrested in October of 2018 for allegedly defrauding investors in an app company he co-owns, USA Today reported.
Prosecutors have alleged that the mayor pocketed 64 percent of the investor’s payments to pay for his own “lavish lifestyle.”
Correia is facing 11 new charges including bribery, extortion conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, and aiding and abetting, USA Today reported.
Voters attempted to oust the mayor in March – and were successful in their recall – but Correia was re-elected the same night when he defeated four other candidates running to fill the empty seat.
He was the city’s youngest mayor ever when was elected at 23 and is currently running for his third term, USA Today reported.
On Monday, Fall River City Council President Cliff Ponte asked Correia to step down, the Boston Globe reported.
But the mayor wasn’t interested.
So on Tuesday night, the Fall River City Council voted 8 to 1 to temporarily replace Correia with Ponte, the Boston Globe reported.