Amateur hour in Fall River

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia could be a case study – in how NOT to run a shakedown conspiracy.

This is Massachusetts – greed and stupidity are not exactly unknown among our elected officials. But according to yesterday’s federal indictment, this kid mayor – he’s 27 – is violating all the accepted local rules for stealing.

But then, it’s Fall River – the Third World, without the palm trees. Or the charm. But even by Third World standards….

In addition to the cash (up to $600,000), Correia was grabbing mortgage discharges, 12-15 pounds of pot, a percentage of the city’s projected marijuana revenues, and at least one $10,000 Rolex “Batman” watch.

In other words, the headline for this column could be: “Batman was Robbin’.”

“Brazen” was how Correia was described by US Attorney Andrew Leilling, and that’s an understatement. They say pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered. Correia is a hog.

Mistakes, he’s made a few. First of all, he had at least two bagmen, whom the feds call “middlemen.” The good thing about a bagman is, if he gets lugged, you can always claim he was freelancing, using your name without your knowledge.

But even though the mayor is alleged to have at least two bagmen, Correia was making some of the cash pickups himself (in his city vehicle). Dumb.

And here’s what’s even dumber – he takes his chief of staff with him for one payoff. In other words, in court it won’t just be the mayor’s word against the guy he’s shaking down – a wannabe weed mogul – it’ll be the testimony of both the victim and the hack aide.

Next, let’s talk about that chief of staff. Her name is Genoveva Andrade, and she was making $78,780 a year, plus a $10,000 “snow stipend,” whatever that is. But the mayor was shaking her down too – grabbing half of her salary. Half!

Page 32 of the indictment includes several direct quotes from the bitter Andrade, including her mention of the mayor’s safe with “hundreds of thousands” of dollars cash, the “lots of sleazy things the mayor has going on,” and, to the ganga gangster: “You want to hear something even more (bleeped) up… I have to give (CORREIA) half of my salary.”

There’s usually a reason the feds put such statements in quotes. They have them on tape.

How is it possible to extort this much graft in one destitute city? Because the legislature, in the enabling legislation, gave city mayors the sole authority to issue “non-opposition letters” to pot emporia, without which they can’t open.

One corrupt mayor, one bunch of drug dealers, and millions of dollars in cash up for grabs. What could possibly go wrong?

As Leilling pointed out yesterday, since marijuana is still banned under federal law, the dealers can’t use the banking system, so everything is cash, meaning “mayors could be sorely tempted to take some kind of bribe.”

Ya think? Ya think they’re hearing the footsteps in city halls across Massachusetts?

The drug kingpins can’t use banks, so they use… mayors.

But why would the legislature, even as corrupt as it is, set up a licensing system where drug dealers would only have to pay off one sleazy politician to go into their dirty business?

That’s simple to explain. This insane legalization of marijuana was bought and paid for by drug dealers of one form or another. They paid for the referendum, and then they put out more big bucks to set up the regulatory system, or lack thereof.

The reason the mayor, and only the mayor, decides who gets the license is because the dealers wanted one-stop shopping. Why pay off everybody at City Hall if they can just duke the mayor? Over the long haul, it’s much cheaper than bribing the city council, the health inspectors, the “community advocates, etc.”

Leilling is just following the feds’ political-corruption playbook. Across the country, most political bribery involves mayors (think Baltimore), or legislative leaders (think Boston, Albany).

By the way, one of Correia’s bagmen was himself “an illegal marijuana dealer prior to its legalization in Massachusetts.” I guess the boy mayor wanted someone who understood the racket, I mean business.

Then there was the mayor’s “Current Girlfriend,” as the indictment describes her. Traditionally, a pol’s gal pal should be low profile. But not Current Girlfriend – Correia gave her brother not one, but two marijuana licenses. And she was handed not just a matching “Batman” watch but also “a $10,000 down payment for (her) 2015 Mercedes G550.”

After one of the payoffs, the mayor’s chief of staff told the marijuana dealer, “You’re family now.” Crime family, that is.

There’s a preliminary election for mayor in a couple of weeks in Fall River. Correia is on the ballot. He’s already been reelected once since his initial indictment. We’ll soon know if Fall River is ready for reform.

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