Two plead guilty in Massachusetts marijuana license extortion case

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Two men who authorities allege extorted money on behalf of the mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, from companies seeking to obtain a state license to operate cannabis retail businesses have pleaded guilty.

Antonio Costa, 51, of Fall River, and David Hebert, 54, of Westport, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of extortion, conspiracy and making false statements. They were released pending sentencing.

Authorities say the two men served as “middlemen” for Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia as he accepted cash bribes in exchange for issuing official letters needed to obtain the licenses.

At least four marijuana business owners paid a total of $600,000 in bribes, authorities say.

Correia, 27, pleaded not guilty this month to multiple federal corruption charges.

The city council last week voted to temporarily remove Correia from office, but he has refused to leave, saying the council lacks the authority.

Correia, who is up for re-election, will be on the November ballot after surviving a preliminary election.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily