Closing arguments delivered in Correia corruption trial; jury deliberating

BOSTON, Mass. (WLNE) — Closing arguments began Monday in the federal corruption trial of former Fall River mayor, Jasiel Correia. 

Correia, 29, faces 24 different counts of wire fraud, tax fraud, extortion and bribery all related to his now-defunct app called Sno Owl, and the alleged “pay to play” scheme he set up to shake down marijuana vendors in Fall River.

The morning started with a bit of a curveball, as Judge Douglas Woodlock dismissed one member of the jury before closing arguments started to “ensure the integrity” of the trial. 

The move freed up one more seat inside the courtroom, which was taken by Jasiel Correia I, the father of the former mayor of Fall River, who has been unable to attend testimony so far.

Closing arguments began with assistant US attorney, Zachary Hafer, reviewing the case in chronological order, starting in 2013 with investments made to Correia’s Sno Owl app. 

Hafer told the jury that Correia was not committed to the app and willingly lied to investors before stealing and spending their money on things like clothing and a lavish lifestyle. 

Describing Correia’s entrepreneurship and rise to power, Hafer told the jury, “[Correia] convinced and persuaded people from all walks of life… to do what he wanted. And what he wanted was money, what he wanted was power… Money he was willing to steal, power he was able to sell.”

Next, he detailed the old-school pay-to-play scheme Correia allegedly set up with the city’s marijuana vendors, who were looking to open up shop shortly after recreational pot became legal in Massachusetts in 2018.

Hafer described how Correia shook-down vendors in return for official paperwork needed for them to open up a dispensary in town. 

Hafer detailed how Correia even extorted $250,000 from a man named David Brayton, who paid Correia’s middlemen in lump sums of cash.

Hafer tied several purchases made by Correia shortly after to that bribe, showing that Correia purchased Rolex watches and suits in straight cash. 

After the prosecution, it was Correia’s defense team’s turn.

Defense attorney, Kevin Reddington, focused in on two middlemen, Hildegard Camara and Tony Costa, two co-conspirators who testified against Correia and were granted immunity by the court to do so.

Reddington argues that of the 14 letters of non-opposition Correia handed out to marijuana vendors, only two of them involved “shake-downs.” Those two, Reddington argued, were both orchestrated by Costa and Camara, who were allegedly the “masterminds” behind the pay-to-play scheme.

In regards to the Sno Owl app, Reddington argued that Correia never abandoned it and was constantly working to launch and improve the app.

He also argued that Correia did not knowingly spend investor money on himself, saying “There’s not one document that says you can’t spend this money as you see fit.”

But Correia withheld investor money to Sno Owl on his tax returns during those years, which is why he also faces charges of filing false tax returns. 

ABC6 legal analyst, Ken Schreiber says that move could determine this part of the case.

“That’s almost an impossible burden to overcome because they have his tax returns for those years which show nothing,” Schreiber explained.

In total, there have been 2 weeks’ worth of testimony in this trial.  36 witnesses have taken the stand — 33 of them called by the prosecution, 3 called by the defense. 

Current Fall River mayor, Paul Coogan, tells ABC6 regardless of the outcome, he’s excited to put this chapter of the city’s history behind them.

“I’m glad closing arguments are underway,” Coogan said. “This has been something that’s hung over the city for a long time.”

“Hopefully the city can move on to more positive things,” Coogan said.

The jury is now deliberating on 24 different charges and could have a verdict as soon as Tuesday.

(c) WLNE-TV // ABC 6  2021

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