The mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, who was elected at 23, was federally charged this week with using investments in a company he formed as his ‘personal ATM’ to enjoy adult entertainment, casinos, purchase a Mercedes, and pay off student debt. He faces decades in prison if he is convicted on all federal charges.
Jasiel Correia collected up to $360,000 from investors to develop a Web app that was sold as helping businesses connect with consumers. Instead, he allegedly used $230,000 of the money to pay for a lavish lifestyle and to advance his political career.
FBI agent Hank Shaw stated on Thursday that Correia’s actions were shameless, underhanded and greedy. He allegedly blurred the lines between his public and private duties, used investor funds to fund his lifestyle, and looted investors of almost $250,000.
The Democrat mayor is now 26. He was elected as a city councilman in 2013, and after a single term, was elected mayor in 2015. Correia was the youngest mayor in the history of Fall River, a city of 85,000. According to the US Conference of Mayors, he was the youngest mayor ever of a city as large as Fall River. He easily won reelection last year.
Correia was placed under arrest this week in Bridgewater and charged with wire fraud and filing false tax returns. He was expected to appear in federal court yesterday. His defense attorney has not yet commented. According to the mayor’s office, Correia will provide a statement during his arraignment.
Correia founded the company SnoOwl in 2012, and he started the next year to seek investor funds in exchange for equity in the company. He spent the funds he collected for his personal gain, and lied to investors about how the app was progressing as the company began to flounder.
Federal prosecutors allege that Correia stole at least $231,000 from seven investors, and he also filed false tax returns when he found out that he was under federal investigation.
Federal prosecutors reported that he used investor money to buy tens of thousands of dollars of luxury goods, including jewelry for his girlfriend, a Mercedes, designer clothes, and to generally pay for entertainment and personal travel. He also allegedly used the ill-gotten money to pay down student loan debt and to make charitable donations. The mayor also is accused of using investor funds to pay for his political campaigns.
During the election, he stated that his proper stewardship of SnoOwl was a reason to elect him mayor. In September 2017, the former mayor confirmed to a local paper that he was under federal investigation regarding his company. At the time, he claimed that the investigation was a smear job by political opposition.
Correia went to Providence College in Rhode Island. He was named entrepreneur of the year in 2014 by the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber stated on their website that he was a classic example of ‘a Fall River kid made good.’
Fall River is a blue collar city of 86,000 approximately 55 miles southeast of Boston. The town is most well known for Lizzie Borden, who was accused of killing her father and stepmother in 1892 with an axe.
Correia was one of 10 Democrat mayors in the state recently who endorsed GOP Governor Charlie Baker for reelection over Democrat challenger Jay Gonzalez. As of yesterday, Baker was distancing himself from the mayor.
During his arraignment yesterday, the mayor was in handcuffs, but he was all smiles as he pleaded not guilty to federal wire and tax fraud charges. Outside the federal courthouse, he claimed the federal charges were wrong and that he would not resign. Later that day, he issued a public statement that said he is innocent, and he restated that he is not going to resign. However, political experts expect that if the case continues, Correia will eventually have to step down due to political pressure from his own party.
Correia told the media that he loves the town and all of its residents, and that he will continue to serve them and move the city forward. He added that he wanted to tell all of his constituents that the circumstances surrounding the federal charges will not affect city government.
He also said that the SnoOwl app was completed and approved to be downloaded from the Apple App Store, saying that he never misled investors.
However, the FBI responded that the young mayor had brought embarrassment and shame to the town, and that he betrayed the trust of every investor and that of his constituents.
If he is convicted on all of the federal charges he faces, the mayor could receive at least 20 years in federal prison.