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Former Wunderkind mayor to face swindling, bribery case

BOSTON (AP) – At the age of 23 after being elected mayor of Massachusetts Fall River, it seemed that Jassiel Korea’s political career had no choice but to rise. Bright and dynamic, Correia captivated voters by presenting itself as a successful entrepreneur who could revive a struggling old mill town.

Prosecutors say he was in fact a swindler or a thief.

Correia is on trial this month for allegedly stealing more than $ 230,000 from investors in a smartphone app he created for his Mercedes, casino travel and adult entertainment. As mayor, he is accused of persuading the chief of staff to pay half of his salary to keep his city job and extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies that want to operate there.

The trial, one of the first in a Boston federal court since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, will show the dramatic rise and fall of Correia, a city in southeastern Massachusetts with a population of 89,000, still hurt by the collapse of its once-thriving textbook industry. Prosecutors will try to show that Correia deceived investors, just as his critics say he spoke fluently to voters to trust the city.

“My husband says the best. “He could have convinced the pope that there is no God,” said Linda Pereira, a Fall River councilor who was overthrown by Koreans and re-elected mayor in 2017.

Even when the former Correia chief of staff and three other people pleaded guilty to the extortion scheme, the former mayor, now 29, remains disrespectful. He denied any wrongdoing, saying the program was intended to help businesses connect with consumers, and blamed political enemies who wanted to overthrow him.

The question now becomes. Will he take a stand trying to persuade the jury? Correa’s name is on the list of defense witnesses, but it remains unclear whether he will really testify.

Unlike many defendants who remain silent to avoid saying anything in court that could be used against them, Correia has been outspoken since his 2018 arrest. He toured with reporters in a PowerPoint presentation to discuss the tumultuous political career of Correia, a documentary series produced by Mark Wahlberg a few days after the first allegations were made.

“If I do something wrong, come and get me. Go ahead and do it. “But I did not do anything wrong,” said Korea in a series called “Run This City,” which aired last year on the current Quibi streaming platform.

“I am not innocent until I am proven guilty, I am not going to prove my guilt,” he said.

The jury election is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. Correia has been charged with money laundering, extortion and bribery.

His lawyer declined to comment to the Associated Press, but said in the past that he “read the indictment as a bad novel by John von Grisham” and that prosecutors had “no evidence, no material evidence, no legal witness.”

After Korea became a city councilor at the age of 22, the city’s local newspaper, The Herald News, described him as a “classic Fall River kid.”

Correia was at the center of a media frenzy in 2014 when he claimed that Mayor Will Flanagan had intimidated him with a gun during a late-night meeting because Correia had supported a motion to summon the mayor. Flanagan has never been charged, but was recalled that year as a result of the election, and was replaced by a district attorney. Correia will defend in court the same lawyer who defended Flanagan during that investigation.

In the 2015 race against Mayor Sam Sutter, Correia announced an app called SnoOwl, which was capitalized on social media to reach out to voters, promised to attract young people, and transform the city under the slogan “We will try.” Satter raised some questions about Correia’s business, but said he regretted not using the issue during the race.

“Asi Asiel claimed he was a millionaire entrepreneur when he was not, և I was kind of guilty of not being able to find out. “I knew SnoOwl was a bust,” Satter said.

Authorities say that three years before he became mayor of Korea, he began looking for investors in his start-up company, promising not to take a salary; he had already sold another big-profit program. Within weeks of receiving a $ 50,000 coupon from one investor, prosecutors say Correia used $ 10,000 to buy a Mercedes sedan.

Over the next few months, prosecutors say, Korean investors paid cash for dating services, luxury hotels, designer clothing, easing student loan debt, and supporting his political career. In total, prosecutors say he spent nearly two-thirds of the more than $ 360,000 he owed investors.

For months after his arrest, Correia resisted calls to resign, survived a bizarre election in March 2019, during which he was recalled by voters, and was re-elected the same night. But after being arrested for the second time by federal agents, this time for an extortion scheme, he agreed to take a leave of absence in October 2019. He was ousted by voters the following month.

As mayor, Correa is accused of accepting bribes from marijuana companies to obtain a license from the city for the approval letters they need. Authorities say Correia or its partners have negotiated bribes with company owners in places such as the Boston Crispy Steak and Cigar Bars և Dunkin Donuts.

“You’re a family now,” Correia chief of staff Gen Yenovia Andrade told one of them after they agreed on a bribe during a meeting in 2018, authorities said in court documents.

In another case, a mediator left an envelope filled with $ 25,000 in cash from a marijuana business owner in a cabin behind the home of a Corriia assistant, prosecutors said. Authorities say the aide later returned the money to the mediator, saying Korea feared it was “food money.”

Three Correia supporters who pleaded guilty to the extortion scheme are among those who could testify against him.

Meanwhile, in Fall River, many who feel sorry for the former mayor will be watching.

“There was a local person I knew who shouted at me, saying how stupid he felt the child was tying him up,” said Pereira, a city councilor.

“I said, ‘Do you know what?’ “Do not feel that way, because he persuaded an entire community,” he said.

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