Ex-Massachusetts mayor found guilty in cannabis bribery scheme

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

A former mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, on Friday was convicted of corruption after prosecutors alleged he engaged in a bribery scheme in which he solicited payments from cannabis companies in exchange for permission to do business within the town’s boundaries.

According to the Associated Press, ex-mayor Jasiel Correia engaged in “old school pay-to-play political corruption,” prosecutors alleged during his trial, which extended not only to marijuana businesses but also investors who believed he was a successful app developer.

Correia, who pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence throughout the trial, was convicted on 21 counts of wire fraud, filing false tax returns and extortion.

One cannabis entrepreneur who had tried to open a marijuana shop in Fall River told the jury that Correia first asked him for $250,000 before the two settled on a lower sum as a bribe, after which Correia told him, “You’re family now.”

According to Law360, the former mayor “intended to shake down these marijuana vendors,” one of the prosecutors told the jury.

Correia, who was elected mayor of Fall River in 2015, was arrested for fraud in 2018 and then arrested again in 2019 for the marijuana bribery-related charges. He survived a recall election in 2018, only to be ousted by voters in 2019 during his run for reelection.

The trial finally took place this year after multiple delays in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.