Indicted Massachusetts mayor advances in primary

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Fall River, Massachusetts, Mayor Jasiel Correia II, despite two indictments in less than a year, survived a primary battle Tuesday and will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election.

Still, he finished a distant second in a vote to narrow the field to two from three. He earned 2,777 votes, according to the unofficial tally, 606 votes ahead of community activist Erica Scott-Pacheco but well behind School Committee member Paul Coogan's 8,273.

"I've got to work hard to win those votes back," Correia said among supporters at LePage's restaurant.

Correia, 27, has refused to resign despite an 8-1 City Council vote calling for his ouster after his Sept. 6 federal arrest on charges of shaking down marijuana vendors.

He pleaded not guilty to charges of extorting state-licensed marijuana vendors for six-figure amounts in bribes. According to the indictment, Correia agreed to issue non-opposition letters to marijuana vendors — a requisite for operating in Massachusetts — in return for cash bribes and other payments.

Massachusetts voters elected to legalize cannabis in 2016.

Prosecutors also charged Correia with extorting a building owner for cash and a Rolex watch in exchange for activating the water supply to a commercial building; and demanding his chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, give him half of her salary in return for appointing her and allowing her to keep her city job.

In October 2018, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston charged him with defrauding investors in a smartphone app company called SnoOwl, which Correia co-owned.

The mayor survived an earlier recall effort in March.

In the aftermath of the latest Correia arrest, a state lawmaker has filed a bill that would change the local contracting process for marijuana companies.

Legislation by Rep. Carole Fiola, D-Fall River, would require approval by a majority of a municipality’s city council or board of selectmen. In cities, a mayor or equivalent officeholder would also have to approve the deal.

“Maybe the state needs to put something in place that says, ‘it needs to actually be a governing entity, not a single person,’ ” Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters.

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Corruption Marijuana industry State and local finance Elections Massachusetts