Despite Extortion Charges, Fall River Mayor Advances In Election

Download Audio
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia speaks beside his attorney Kevin Reddington outside the federal courthouse in Boston Friday after his appearance on bribery, extortion and fraud charges. Correia pleaded not guilty. (Philip Marcelo/AP)
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia speaks beside his attorney Kevin Reddington outside the federal courthouse in Boston after his appearance on bribery, extortion and fraud charges. Correia pleaded not guilty. (Philip Marcelo/AP)

The Fall River mayor facing multiple federal corruption charges will be on the November ballot after surviving a preliminary election.

Jasiel Correia was one of the two top vote-getters in the city's preliminary election for mayor Tuesday. He now faces off against school committee member Paul Coogan in the Nov. 5 general election.

Coogan, a former high school vice principal and current school board member, won 8,200 votes compared to just nearly 2,800 for Correia. The incumbent topped candidate Erica Scott-Pacheco by about 600 votes.

The 27-year-old Correia pleaded not guilty this month to charges accusing him of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies. But as voters headed to the polls, the case moved forward in Boston.

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

Authorities say the two men served as "middlemen" for Correia as he accepted cash bribes in exchange for issuing official letters needed to obtain a state license to operate a marijuana retail business. At least four business owners paid a total of $600,000 in bribes, authorities say.

Documents unsealed Tuesday also show that Hildegar Camara, who was appointed by Correia to head a local job training program, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The 58-year-old faces extortion and conspiracy charges, was placed on paid leave from his government job this week, and is due in court Thursday.

The fourth co-conspirator in the case is Correia's former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade. The 48-year-old Somerset resident hasn't yet entered a formal plea to charges including extortion, conspiracy and bribery.

The indictment was Correia's second. He was also charged with defrauding investors in his company last October.

Correia has steadfastly denied the mounting accusations and refused to resign.

The Democrat has proven resilient at the ballot box. He survived a bizarre March election in which he was recalled by voters and then promptly reelected the same night. And he simply ignored the city council's vote to temporarily oust him last week.

As the results rolled in Tuesday night, Coogan told a room full of supporters at Scottie’s Pub that he’s ready to restore dignity to City Hall.

"People rightfully deserve and demand better leadership, honesty and more openness from their mayor," Coogan said. "They deserve someone who is not in it for the power, for the money."

At the same venue where he celebrated his first mayoral victory, Correia admitted that his arrest less than two weeks ago had a major impact on the results.

"There was a real possibility that I would’ve been out," Correia said. "But we still won tonight. We’re still in this thing and we’re in it to win it."

Voter Bill Kenney says under Correia city government is about "revenge politics." And he says Tuesday night’s result is a win for city workers.

“Now they can look forward very soon to the day when there’s no more Jasiel Correia," Kenney said, "when there’s no more revenge politics, when they can get about doing the work of the city without having to look over their shoulder about who’s going to get fired next because they won’t play ball with the mayor.”

But Correia still has a base of support from voters like Kyle Correia (no relation), who says the allegations are just that: allegations.

"Until proven guilty, he’s not guilty," supporter Correia said. "We’re gonna move the city forward with how he’s running our city and that’s what I’m looking for in the November election."

Over 13,000 Fall River voters went to the polls Tuesday night, a significantly greater turnout than the last two preliminary elections.

With reporting from The Associated Press, WBUR's Simón Rios and RIPR's Nadine Sebai. The audio atop this post is Sebai's Morning Edition feature report.

This article was originally published on September 18, 2019.

This segment aired on September 18, 2019.

Earlier Coverage:


More from WBUR

Listen Live