LIVE UPDATES; The Trial Of Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia Continues (Day 8)

First published: 9:30AM Eastern Daylight Time, 4/28/2021

Photo: Jasiel Correia

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Welcome (back) to my live coverage of day three of witness testimony in the trial for former Fall River Major Jasiel Correia; the then-23 year old Mayoral prodigy who quickly fell from grace following
his arrest on extortion charges -- related to the issuing of cannabis licenses in the city -- by Federal authorities in September of 2019.

The trial is taking place in Boston at the Federal Courthouse under the supervision of U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock and is expected to last 3 weeks from this point in time (with jury selection having taken place last week over 4 days).

Correia faces a total of 24 counts during the trial, including tax fraud related to his company called SnoOwl, along with extortion and bribery charges related to local cannabis companies.

According to a press release from Federal officials at the time, Correia was
"arrested and charged for allegedly extorting marijuana vendors for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes; extorting a building owner for cash and a Rolex watch in exchange for activating the water supply to a commercial building; and demanding that his chief of staff give him half of her salary in return for appointing her and allowing her to keep her city job".

Find rolling updates below;

3:22PM: Now testifying is Staff Sheehan (Ph.D), who had considered joining SnowOwl as its CEO after Correia was elected Mayor of Fall River. Sheehan indicates there was MOU (memorandum of understanding) between Sheehan and the company, but that it was not a formal contract to become CEO.

Sheehan is the nephew of SnoOwl investor Dr.

2:12PM: Reddington now asking Bernier if Bernier looked the other way to avoid reviewing documents that indicated Correia was misusing funds.

"I was screened out and did not see this document until today", said Bernier.

"You tried to not look at them to avoid the duty to report?" asks Reddington.

"Yes" says Bernier.

1:47PM: Reddington asking Bernier if Correia had the ability to understand a convertible debt note. Bernier says that yes, Correia demonstrated an understanding of some of the terms of the convertible debt note while the two went through the document.

1:39PM: And we are back from lunch break.

The defense continues its examination of Bernier, now asking if Bernier ever worked as legal counsel for SnoOwl.

Bernier says he never worked as legal counsel for SnoOwl and that a document with a statement indicating otherwise is incorrect.

12:45PM: Correia's defense attorney is now stressing that Bernier "wanted a bigger role in the company", and, as questioning came to a natural breaking place, Judge Woodlock excuses the Court for lunch.

12:12PM: Bernier now testifying that, while he had concerns about the company and its financial state, he did not bring those concerns to investors because he felt he did not have enough information to do.

Hafer now asking if both Bernier and Correia were signatories on the Bay Coast account for SnoOwl;

"We were", says Bernier.

12:06PM: Bernier now explaining how, after Correia was elected Mayor, he was introduced to another individual who wanted to help run the company now that Correia had other obligations.

That individual, Bernier testifies, did not want to become CEO of the company due to concerns about funds that had not been deposited into the SnoOwl company account at Bay Coast Bank.

12:04PM: Hafer now asking about a November 2015 meeting that took place with SnoOwl investors and employees following Correia's election as Mayor of Fall River.

12:03PM: "What was the campaign slogan for [Correia's] Mayoral Campaign?" Hafer asks.

"Honest answers for Fall River", says Bernier.

11:57AM: Bernier testifies Correia admitted to him, verbally, that he {Correia] was comingling SnoOwl's business funds and Correia's personal funds"[Correia] said 'yea he was comingling and he would use the business money for personal expenses'" Bernier tells Hafer.

"I thought maybe it was a benign error, but eventually I thought maybe there was something bigger here that I did not know about." Bernier testifies.

Bernier says he told Correia that he [Bernier] had a duty to investors, if something serious had occurred, to tell them.

11:52AM: Bernier confirms that SnoOwl was paying rent of $150 a month to a non-profit business incubator called "1 0 4" which was run by Correia and another individual.

The space SnoOwl rented, Bernier says, was a table in a shared space overseen by the 104 incubator and was one of a number of companies who were anticipated to work from the space. "It was like a wework space of a kind", says Bernier.

11:49AM: The Government asks if Bernier knew, when writing a business plan for SnoOwl in 2015, that Correia's first company "FindIt" was "fatally flawed and never came to fruition?

"No, I did not", is the reply.

11:45AM: "Did you have a reaction to the fact that $36,000 was deposited into the business account despite the fact that over $270,000 had been raised"? asks Hafer.

"It happened slowly, so I just thought he (Correia) was slow [at updating the books] or lazy". says Bernier.

11:36AM: Bernier testifies that he told Cabecerias that neither himself nor Corriea were taking a salary, or making any money, from SnoOwl at the time.

A key component of the Government's argument in the case relate to Correia's alleged illegal personal use of investor money.

11:33AM: And we are back on the record; US Attorney Hafer resumes his questioning of Bernier by asking about Bernier's meetings with SnoOwl investor Dr. David Cabeceiras (a local dentist who put $145k into the company) related to a convertible debt note.

Cabeceiras testified in the trial on both
Monday and Tuesday of this week.

11:09AM: We are now on break until 11:25AM, says Judge Woodlock.

11:08AM: Bernier says he was a junior co-founder of SnoOwl, that he was never the CEO of the company, and that he never had authority of any kind over Mr. Correia.

11:07AM: Bernier says that, in December 2014, Correia was insistent that he "was not taking a salary while at SnoOwl".

10:54AM: Harding steps down and we will hear from the next witness, tax and energy attorney Nicholas D. Bernier from the law firm Rampart Law Group, LLC.

Bernier met Correia when Bernier was running for City Council in 2013 and was "extremely impressed".

Bernier says that, after he ended his campaign for City Council following the birth of his daughter, he gave his voter data to Correia (who continued on in the race) and then began talking to Correia about SnoOwl.

The Government is putting a lot of emphasis on Correia telling investors he had sold a prior company ("FindIt").

Bernier explains he planned to join SnoOwl in a "non-legal" capacity.

10:53AM: Redirect now begins from the Government. "Your company was, in fact, owed $5000 in 2017 from Mr. Correia?"

Harding says he was.

10:52AM: Reddington now making an implicit argument that Harding only stopped being paid for his work on SnoOwl after Correia had been elected Mayor and handed over day to day duties at the company to another individual.

10:30AM: Reddington asks Harding why he did not ask other owners of SnoOwl for the money owed for backpay.

"I did ask everyone involved", comes the answer from Harding.

10:30AM: Defense Attorney Reddington begins his cross examination.

10:29: Harding testifies that, currently, SnoOwl "has no value" without additional work on the project.

10:04AM: Harding testifies that, at a certain point, he stopped being paid for his work on SnoOwl and that, after Correia was elected Mayor in 2014, the app was "dead in the water".

9:42AM: The first witness for the Government is Joshua Scott Harding, a software developer who has worked within the field for 25 years. Harding testifies he was interested in working with Correia after Correia told him his first company, "FindIt", was sold.

9:30AM: Reporters, attorneys and court staff begin to file into the hearing room as we await Judge Woodlock.