Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia entered a plea of not guilty Thursday at the Moakley Federal Court House in Boston to multiple charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns in connection with a multi-year investment fraud scheme.
The 26-year-old Correia maintains his innocence and says he has no intention of resigning from his position as mayor.
During a media briefing, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced a nine-count indictment against Correia, accusing him of securing hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments for a start-up company he founded in 2012 — before becoming mayor — and then using that money for personal expenses.
Lelling told reporters, "This was not about poor accounting or honest mistakes. According to the indictment, Correia used investment money to fund personal travel and entertainment spending thousands of dollars on airfare, luxury hotels, casinos dating services and adult entertainment."
Lelling claims Correia defrauded investors in his company, Sno Owl, and used at least $231,447 — approximately 64 percent of the money invested — to fund his lavish lifestyle, political campaign, and college student loans.
Following a several years-long FBI investigation, Boston FBI Special Agent In-Charge Hank Shaw said agents arrested Correia at 6:30 a.m. Thursday in Bridgewater and took him into custody.
"Mr. Correia blurred the lines between his private business and his public duties," said Shaw, "using investor funds as a his own personal ATM, symptomatically looting almost a quarter of a million dollars."
When elected in 2015 at the age of 23, Correia was the youngest mayor in Fall River history.
The judge ordered Correia to surrender his passport and to stay any from any witnesses. He was released on $10,000 bond and is due back in court December 6.