Fall River, Massachusetts mayor Jasiel Correia is facing a recall effort following his arrest and indictment on thirteen federal wire and tax fraud charges last week. Refusing to resign, Correia insists he is innocent of all charges.
Jasiel Correia indicted
On October 11th Correia was arrested and indicted following an investigation led by Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling.
Specifically, Correia was accused of raising money for a smartphone app called SnoOwl, and then using the invested money to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Speaking at last week’s press conference, FBI agent Hank Shaw said, “Mr. Correia blurred the lines between public business and private duties, using investor funds as his own personal ATM, systemically looting almost a quarter-million dollars.”
According to the indictment, the mayor used at least $231,447, or two thirds of all money invested in SnoOwl, to buy a car, designer clothing, jewelry for a girlfriend, personal travel, “adult entertainment,” and to fund his reelection campaign and pay off his student loan.
Following his arrest, Correia pleaded innocent to the charges filed against him, and said in a written statement, “I look forward to my day in court to share my side of the story and to clear my name.”
Rise and fall of one of America’s youngest mayors
The Democratic politician became one of America’s youngest mayors when he was elected in 2015 at just 23 years of age. He was comfortably reelected last year.
During his rise to political prominence, Correia was simultaneously fronting a tech startup building SnoOwl. Designed to allow businesses to reach customers while they are shopping, accusations that the business was in serious legal trouble emerged in April 2017 during a economic development board meeting. Despite having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, the troubled app was then still in need of $30,000 to complete development, and rumored to be the subject of an FBI investigation.
The rumors turned out to be accurate. Now Correia is not only facing a string of felony charges, but personal and political ruin as well.
Accused of misusing city resources
On Tuesday Correia hosted a press conference described by local media as a “sometimes bizarre event” in the Fall River Government Center.
After a Power Point presentation about SnoOwl, meant to refute a key FBI charge that Correia had misrepresented its development progress to investors, the mayor-cum-entrepreneur choked back the tears and insisted on his innocence.
“A lot of people would run and hide and be worried about statements they were going to make in the press and they wouldn’t want to respond to allegations in an indictment. They wouldn’t want to go through the details,” he said.
But Tuesday’s press conference generated its own controversy. Despite insisting that the federal indictments have nothing to do with his role as mayor, Correia made his pitch to the media in front of the city seal, surrounded by city employees sat in a government facility.
An outraged City Council Vice President Pam Laliberte-Lebeau said, “It’s a blatant misuse of personnel to invite city employees to something that was a SnoOwl infomercial. Is this how we are going to use city resources and him laying out his defense on a federal indictment? Talk about how not to conduct business as usual.”
Effort to recall Jasiel Correia begins
In part of his address to the citizens of Fall River on Tuesday, Correia asked them to either back him or sack him.
“I humbly ask that the citizens — not the City Council, not other elected officials, state and federal, not bullies, not the press, not social media posts — but the people of the city of Fall River either reaffirm my position as mayor or choose to recall me as mayor,” he said.
Yesterday, ten Fall River citizens called Correia’s bluff and began the process of recalling their embattled mayor.
A twenty-day petition drive now begins. If 2,500 of Fall River’s roughly 50,000 registered voters sign it, Jasiel Correia will be asked to resign or face a special recall election.