A Massachusetts mayor who was first elected at age 23 was arrested Thursday and charged with defrauding investors in a company he formed out of more than $230,000 and using the funds to enhance his political career and pay for a lavish lifestyle, federal prosecutors said.
A newly unsealed 13-count indictment charges Jasiel Correia, the Democratic two-term mayor of Fall River, with wire fraud and filing false tax returns.
Phone and email messages left with Correia’s office and his defense attorney were not immediately returned.
According to the indictment, Correia founded SnoOwl, a company that was developing an app to help businesses connect with target consumers, in 2012.
Beginning around January 2013, according to the indictment, Correia began seeking investors for the company and “perpetrated a scheme to defraud the SnoOwl investors by making false representations and diverting a significant portion of the investors’ funds to himself.”
The proceeds were used to “fund his own lavish lifestyle, burgeoning political career, and the needs of his other business ventures,” the indictment states.
Prosecutors allege that from 2013-2015, Correia stole at least $231,447 from seven investors in SnoOwl.
He used the money, the indictment says, to purchase tens of thousands of dollars of luxury items, including jewelry, cars and clothing; to pay for personal travel and entertainment; to pay down his student loan debt; and to make charitable donations in his own name.
The mayor “concealed his ill-gotten gains from the IRS,” according to the indictment.
In September 2017, Correia confirmed to the Fall River Herald that he was the subject of a federal investigation regarding the company. He denied wrongdoing at the time and said the investigation was brought on by political opponents.
Now 26, Correia was first elected as a city councilor in 2013 and after one term was elected mayor in 2015, the youngest mayor in the city’s history and the first of Cape Verdean descent. The U.S. Conference of Mayors said at the time he was the youngest mayor to run a city as large as Fall River.
He won re-election handily last November.
Correia attended Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, and in 2014 was named entrepreneur of the year by the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce, according to his online biography, which called him: “A classic example of a Fall River kid made good.”
Fall River is a working-class mill city of about 87,000 residents in southeastern Massachusetts, some 55 miles from Boston. It is perhaps most famous for the case of Lizzie Borden, who was accused but later acquitted of killing her father and stepmother with an ax in 1892.
Correia was recently among 10 Democratic mayors in Massachusetts who chose to endorse Republican Mayor Charlie Baker for re-election in November over Baker’s Democratic challenger, Jay Gonzalez.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling scheduled a news conference for later Thursday to discuss the charges.
Associated Press writer Mark Pratt contributed to this report.