A Massachusetts mayor found himself in big trouble when he was recently arrested and charged on 13 counts. Fall River Mayor Jasiel Corriea was arrested by federal agents last week for defrauding investors of more than $230,000 and “using funds to pay for [his] lavish lifestyle and political campaign.” This includes wire fraud and filing false tax returns. He maintains he is innocent.
Corriea founded an app called SnoOwl in 2012, a tool that could be used to help local businesses connect with potential customers. He started seeking investors in 2013, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors wrote in the indictment: “Starting in approximately January 2013, and continuing until at least in or about May 2017, Correia perpetrated a scheme to defraud SnoOwl investors by making false representations and diverting a significant portion of the investors’ funds to himself, while neglecting the development of the company to focus on his political career.”
Among the investors were family friends and members of the local community, including orthodontist David Cabeceiras, who told the Herald News that he invested $80,750 in SnoOwl.
According to the indictment, the money Corriea got from investors was used to “fund his own lavish lifestyle, burgeoning political career, and the needs of his other business ventures.”
Correia is said to have stolen at least $231,447 from seven investors in SnoOwl between 2013 and 2015 and that he “concealed his ill-gotten gains from the IRS.”
During a press conference, attorney Andrew Lelling noted that Correia used the investor money to pay for airfare, luxury hotels, a car, jewelry, designer clothing, dating services, casinos, and “adult entertainment.”
Corriea used about $10,000 of the investor funds for his student loans and political campaigns, according to officials. He also used some of the investment money to make charitable contributions in his own name, the prosecutor noted.
Lelling further explained that Corriea intentionally used the investors’ money, noting, “This was not about poor accounting or honest mistakes.”
Additionally, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Hank Shaw, said at a briefing: “His actions were underhanded, shameless and greedy. On top of cheating his investors, we allege he cheated taxpayers by filing false tax returns.”
Shaw further noted: “Mr. Correia blurred the lines between his private business and public duties, using investor funds as his own personal ATM, systematically looting almost one-quarter of $1 million. Mayor Correia has brought undeserved shame and embarrassment upon the City of Fall River.”
Fall River, located 55 miles from Boston, has a population of 87,000 residents. Correia, a Democrat, was the youngest mayor in the city’s history when he was elected in 2015, at age 23. He attended Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island and was named entrepreneur of the year by the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce in 2014.
Outside of court, Correia denied the charges and said he would not resign as mayor, noting: “I’ve done nothing wrong, if you look at my track record as mayor all you see is positive results.”
Among the many people who weighed in with comments on Correia’s arrest on social media were those who were stunned by his actions, with one person noting: “Elected officials need to be certified to be trusted worthy.”