A former mayor in Massachusetts is headed to jail over an extortion scheme he perpetrated while in office.
According to the Associated Press, Jasiel Correia, a Democrat elected as mayor of Fall River at the age of 23, was sentenced to six years behind bars this week following his conviction.
“Absolute lack of remorse”
Now 29, Correia was found guilty of bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars through a scheme to extort entrepreneurs interested in operating a cannabis business in Fall River.
Although he maintained his innocence, he did not offer a statement during the latest court appearance. According to U.S. District Judge Douglass Woodlock, Correia showed an “absolute lack of remorse” for his actions.
Even the defendant’s own attorneys acknowledge that there is no “sugarcoating” his criminal behavior, but they were hoping for a prison sentence about half as long as the one Woodlock imposed, citing Correia’s ostensibly positive impact on the city.
“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,” said attorney William Fick.
U.S. Attorney Zach Hafer, on the other hand, wanted Correia to spend 11 years in prison, arguing: “Fall River under Jasiel Correia was like Atlantic City during Prohibition in terms of the crudeness of the corruption.”
“City Hall was for sale”
For his part, the judge insisted that the case represented a troubling chapter for the city and beyond.
“If we can’t trust each other — if we can’t trust our government, where are we?” Woodlock asked.
He went on to concluded that “City Hall was for sale” under the leadership of the young mayor.
Although the judge sided with Correia’s attorneys by dismissing several guilty verdicts related to wire fraud and tax fraud, his conviction on charges of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, and additional counts of wire fraud still stand.
Correia, who was first elected in 2016, remained in office even after his first arrest, winning a recall election that was called in response to his legal troubles. Following a subsequent arrest on the extortion charges, however, he stepped down and was voted out a short time later.