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Welcome (back) to my live coverage of day five 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.
Today we will (finally) move on from Government witness testimony about Correia's alleged defrauding of investors in his SnoOwl company. Last week, IRS Special Agent Lemasnki testified in court that Correia spent 64% of the $300,000+ he raised from investors on personal expenses (including the purchase of a $10k Mercedes-Benz, lavish gifts for Correia's then-girlfriend, and extended stays at luxury resorts including Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod and the Intercontinental Hotel Chain in Boston and Washington D.C.
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 2 weeks from this point in time (with jury selection and initial witness testimony having taken place over the past 2 weeks).
Today, I expect that testimony will now move on to testimony about Correia's alleged extortion of cannabis companies in Fall River who had sought the then-Mayor's signature on a "letter of non-opposition" needed to open a cannabis establishment in the City.
Corriea and his staff, prosecutors allege, demanded cash bribes (and, in one case, a bribe in the form of cannabis flower) from the companies seeking those letters of non-opposition.
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;
5:00PM: Due to the pace of updates in the trial, I will be moving this live coverage to a tweet thread going forward.
The thread for yesterday afternoon's testimony can be found at this URL:
12:50PM: "And on July 7th Mr. Barros arranged to come to your home to pay you that cash?"
"Yes, he came to my home with $50,000."
"Who did you call after you got that money?"
"I called Mr. Camera, who told me to put it in his shed behind his house."
"When you spoke to Mr. Camera about giving him that envelope from Mr. Barros, what happened next?"
"I took the envelop with the cash to Camera's shed." (we now see a picture of Mr. Camera's light blue shed. It is a nice shed.)
"After you did that, did you hear from Camera?"
"Yes, he came to my home with gloves on and holding the envelope."
"What did Camera say?"
"He said that 'its Fed money and they (Correia) won't touch it'."
"Did you ask Mr. Barros if it was 'fed money'?"
"Yes, he denied it"
"What did Mr. Camera tell you to do?"
"Camera told me to take the money, buy cannabis with it, and then get it back as smaller bills?"
"Mr. Camera did what?!" asks Hafer.
"Mr. Camera told me to take the $50k, buy cannabis and then bring it to him in smaller bills."
"Did you do that?"
"What did you do with the money?"
"I kept it due to my $50k losses from SnoOwl and used the money to take 9 elderly women on a cruise."
"Did you follow up with Mr. Barros about the money he had paid and owed?"
"Yes, I told Barros he could continue to pay me in cannabis."
"You were playing both sides against each other?"
"Did you have to forfeit this $50k to the government by pleading guilty?"
"And you told Barros that Camera was calling looking for cash to get the payoff done and Barros' letter of non-opposition signed?"
"You were pressured by Mr. Correia and Mr. Camera during this period [July 2018]?"
"At this point in time, you had received some pounds of cannabis from Barros and sold it?"
"And did you give any of that money to Correia or Camera?"
"No, I was playing both sides at that point."
I don't think the Jury is going to trust this witness.
12:45PM: "Who is Jen Andrade?"
"She was the chief of staff for Mayor Correia at the time."
Costa testifies that, after he paid Correia $3,900 in rent for a campaign office, Mr. Costa was told by Andrade to give the value of the rent check back to Correia in cash "away from the windows".
"Why did you do that?"
"I own property in the city, that's how it works."
Did you tell Mr. Barros that, if he wanted to get into Fall River to open a cannabis store, he would need to pay Correia the $250,000?"
"Did Correia agree to go forward with that?"
"What was Barros going to pay and what was he going to get from Correia?"
"Giving Tree Health Center" was the proposed establishment that Barros wanted to open in Fall River.
"Why were you involved in negotiating a letter of non-opposition and Host Community Agreement for Mr. Barros if you did not work for the Fall River government?"'
"I was being a middle man in the cash payout [from Mr. Barros to Jasiel Correia]" says Costa.
"Why did you text Mr. Barros in July of 2018 asking if he still wanted to move forward?"
"The cash; Mr. Correia and Mr. Camera were asking me why Barros had not yet paid the cash."
"Did you make arrangements to meet with Barros at that time?"
"Yes, I did."
12:40PM: "Did you have discussions, at another point, about getting Mr. Brayton into another city?"
"What did Correia say about Swansea?"
"Correia said he could make it happen but it would cost $250,000."
"Did that deal actually happen?"
12:30PM: Costa now testifying that, after trying to remove himself as the middleman, Brayton expressed frustration that Mr. Camera had attempted to ask for even more money above the initially agreed upon $250,000 bribe. Costa testifies, as a result, he remained as the middleman.
After Costa agreed to stay in the deal, he then brought Brayton's payment plan offer to Correia ($100k down and $150k once the company was operational and profitable).
"Corriea asked me if Brayton was good for it, and I said he was", Costa tells the jury.
Costa confirms that Brayton brought Costa a $100,000 check, with Brayton's 4 year old daughters in the car. The check had a memo line of "property management fees/retainer".
"Did you say anything to Brayton about the check when he dropped it off?"
"I told him to go home."
"Why did you tell him to go home?"
"Because it was wrong to do this."
"Did you mention something about cash?"
"Yes, I told Brayton cash was better but he said he couldn't get that much cash."
"What happened after you got the check?"
"I called Correia and he was excited."
"Did you and Jasiel Correia have an agreement as to how the $100k check proceeds would be split?"
"Yes, as we were cashing the check I paid him (over time) $80,000 in cash and took $20,000 for myself."
"Did you work for the city of Fall River at that time?"
"When Correia came to collect that cash, on multiple occasions, from the $100k check how did he do so?"
"Correia drove to my home in his official city truck with an official city plate."
"Why were you keeping $20,000 of the check?"
"To pay taxes on the check."
"Did Correia seem confused when he arrived to pick up the cash from you?"
"No, he seemed happy."
"Did you ever have a conversation with Correia and his use of cash?"
"He told me always wanted cash in case something went bad."
"In regards to your work to facilitate the bribe to Mr. Correia for Mr. Brayton, what did Mr. Brayton offer you?"
"He offered me $125,000 a year, with a cap, once the company was profitable."
"Did you ever get that $125k per year from Mr. Brayton?"
"No, because it went bad."
12:20PM: "Did Mr. Brayton ever ask you to help get his cannabis business approved in Fall River?"
"Yes" says Mr. Costa.
"What did you first do when Mr. Brayton asked you to do so?"
"I asked for a meeting with Mr. Correia and Mr. Camera?"
"Did you have that meeting?" "Yes."
"What did you tell them?"
"I had someone who wanted to open a dispensary and needed to know what he needed to do."
"What did Correia say to you?"
"Corriea told me he is making everyone pay $250,000 for the letter of non-opposition."
"Are you, like, the middle man in this thing?" asks Hafer.
"Yes, I was."
11:41AM: Costa testifies he met Mr. Correia through Costa's ex-wife.
Costa says that he met Correia originally through a family member, before Correia was Mayor, and invested $50,000 in the SnoOwl app. Costa testifies he initially lied to the FBI and to the Grand Jury about the portion of his investment that was given in cash ($40k).
US Attorney Hafer asking Costa to confirm that, when Costa invested in SnoOwl, Correia said that money invested in the app would be used only for business expenses and would not be used for a salary or for personal expenses. He confirms as such.
"If you had known that, within about 5 days of you investing your original $10,000, Mr. Correia would use $4,500 of that money to pay down a personal debt would you have invested in SnoOwl?"
"No" says Costa.
"Did you receive any of your $50k investment back?"
11:40AM: "What happens if you provide false information during the course of your cooperation agreement?"
"I would no longer have the protection of my cooperation agreement and could be charged for all of the crimes."
11:30AM: "Did you plead guilty to two separate extortions of two separate cannabis vendors?"
"Who were they?"
Mr. Brayton and Mr. Barros."
We have not yet heard from Mr. Barros.
"Who did you conspire with to extort Mr. Brayton?"
"Mr. Correia and Mr. Camera."
"Who did you conspire with to extort Mr. Barros?"
"Mr. Correia and Mr. Camera."
11:26AM: "Mr. Costa, in addition to being a welder and owning property, were you engaged in the illegal trade of cannabis for over 10 years?"
"Are you here, testifying today, as a result of a cooperation agreement?"
"Is it fair to say you have had a lot of contact with federal law enforcement related to this matter?"
Costa testifies he ordinally lied to the FBI (and the Grand Jury), in 2017, at the behest and instruction of Jasiel Corriea related to SnoOwl.
"Were you eventually contacted again by the FBI related to the issuance of non-opposition letters in Fall River?"
"Did you tell the FBI the truth about those non-opposition letters in 2017 when you were first asked by the FBI?"
"Mr. Correia had asked me to come up with a story."
"Did Federal Agents eventually give you a target letter after a third instance where you lied to them about your involvement with SnoOwl, the non-opposition letter for Mr. Brayton and Mr. Correia's involvement?"
"Did you get a lawyer and provide what is called 'proffer' to the Federal Government after that target letter went out?" "Yes."
"You signed that proffer letter in June of 2019?"
"Did you proffer on multiple occasions in summer of 2019?"
"Were those proffers truthful?"
"Why, at that point, did you decide to start telling the truth?"
"I plead guilty, I was guilty, and I wanted a lower sentence."
11:21AM: With that, we're back. The jury renters the courtroom and the next witness to testify is Antonio (Tony) Costa.
It was Mr. Costa who, according to prior testimony, allegedly took payment of a $100k bribe on behalf of Mr. Correia to facilitate a "letter of non-opposition".
Mr. Costa testifies that he lives in Fall River, worked as a welder and now owns 7 pieces of property in Fall River.
11:01AM: We are now in our morning break until 11:10AM. If every cannabis witness is going to be at that pace, with that level of detail, we are in for a rollercoaster the next few days. The US AG's are demonstrating a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of state cannabis policy.
11:00AM: Reddington, it seems, is attempting to portray Brayton as someone who sought out Tony Costa for the explicit purpose of paying Costa a bribe. Reddington also asking questions seeking to imply it was Costa and a second man names, Hil Camera, who were using Correia's name.
Reddington, here, seems to be trying to muddy the waters as to who exactly the $100k bribe was meant for; in Reddington's ideal world, he will introduce enough doubt for the jury to think it could have been either Corriea, Costa or Ms. Camera.
Its a long shot argument, but I can see why Reddington is going this route. That said; Brayton was clear in his testimony that, in his mind, the bribe was meant for Correia AND it was Correia who signed the letter of non-opposition that Brayton felt he was "paying" for.
Reddington ends his cross and US Attorney Hafer is now back with redirect. "Had you heard anything about getting into Fall River to open a cannabis operation outside of the meeting with Mr. Costa?" "Yes, I heard it was expensive" "Expensive?" "I heard you had to pay a bribe."
10:30AM: Correia's defense attorney, Kevin Reddington, spending his time on cross painting Tony Costa as a self-interested landlord who lied about his relationship with Correia in order to obtain bribes for Costa himself.
Brayton testifies his attorney, Valerio Romano, was present at the meeting at City Hall with Costa, Correia and Correia's Chief Of Staff Chris Parayno when Brayton was told his initial location (next to the Dance School) would not be viable for City approval.
"The Mayor was not reaching out to you around this time right, he was difficult to get in touch with?" asks Reddington.
"Very difficult to get in touch with", comes the reply from Brayton.
Not really sure this makes the point Reddinton thinks he is making here. Reddington may think this makes Correia look disinterested and, therefore, not interested in seeking a bribe, but for me it seems natural for Correia to insulate himself specifically for the purpose of seeking a bribe.
10:23AM: With that US Attorney Hafer ends up direct examination and now Reddington will begin his cross for the defense.
10:22AM: Brayton now testifying that Costa approached Brayton, after the Federal Government has begun its investigation, and asked Brayton to "align stories" as to the purpose of the $100k check.
10:20AM: Brayton now testifying that Correia and Costa mentioned similar bribes being on offer in Everett or Swansea.
10:18AM: "Did you ever pay the outstanding $150k on the bribe or the 2% of sales to Mr. Costa?"
"We never became cash-flow positive"
"What did you do with your ownership interest in the company?"
"I sold it as a result of this case."
10:15AM: "What was your understanding as to who would ultimately receive the $100,000 check you gave to Tony Costa?"
"Did you agree to give something to Mr. Costa for his help?"
"I was going to give Costa 2% of sales at the Fall River establishment."
"Did Costa agree to take that?"
"Was this agreement in writing?"
10:11AM: "What did you understand you were buying with that $250,000?"
"A letter of non-opposition" says Brayton.
Brayton now testifying that he brought his 4 year old daughters to Tony Costa's to pay Costa with an initial $100,000 dollar check for the bribe.
"Did you obtain your non-opposition letter after you paid that money?" ask Hafer.
"Yes." says Brayton.
10:00AM: Brayton now testifying about three different properties he attempted to secure in Fall River for his cannabis company, but all fell through.
A fourth location, on Globe Street, was eventually secured.
Bryaton testifying that, after finding the location on Globe Street, he still did not have a letter of non-opposition or a host community agreement.
Brayton testifying that getting City approval was proving difficult, so Brayton reached out to Tony Costa to setup a meeting with Correia.
In July of 2016, Costa setup a golf game with Brayton and someone close to Corriea.
"What do I have to do to get into Fall River?" Brayton says he asked in frustration on the 18th hole.
Eventually, the third person (Hildegar) from the golf game reached out to Brayton and they setup a meeting at a local Dunkin Donuts.
"What did you understand the purpose of the Dunkin's meeting was?"
"Originally, I thought it was to pick up tickets for a Correia fundraiser."
"What was your state of mind as to what Hildegar and Tony Costa expected of you in that context?"
"I expected that I would pay a bribe to Tony Costa." says Brayton.
Did you meet with Tony Costa soon after that Dunkin's meeting with Hildegar Camara?"
"What happened at that conversation?"
"Tony Costa was saying how, now that I've brought this problem to their attention, they were looking for a bribe to make this work" says Brayton.
"Did you talk to Tony Costa about this bribe, was it a part of the normal fee for seeking a license?"
"It was not part of the normal fees."
Brayton testifying that Costa asked for a $250k bribe to Correia in exchange for the letter of non-opposition.
Brayton says he could not afford that, but could do $100k down and $150k later. Brayton testifies that, after Costa ran the payment plan by Correia, it was approved.
9:50AM: Brayton explaining the basic steps to open a cannabis company in Massachusetts;
1) Find a board of directors
2) Incorporate as a company
3) Find a location
"What is a letter of non-opposition?"
"Its a letter from a local official that allows a company to operate in that town or city?"
"Can you operate a cannabis company without a non-opposition letter?"
"Who signed the letters of non-opposition in Fall River?"
9:45AM: The first cannabis witness is David Brayton, an local business owner who attempted to open Xiphias Cannabis in Fall River. Brayton testifying he lied to federal agents, in 2018, when asked if he paid a bribe. "I wanted to protect myself and Mr. Correia." says Brayton.
"Did you receive an immunity agreement, at some point after that, from the Federal Government?"
"Yes." says Brayton.
"In return for your testimony, what does the Government offer you?"
"I will not be charged for paying the bribe if I tell the truth".
9:30AM: Judge Woodlock welcome she gallery, jurors and the parties back to the courtroom after a long weekend.
Today, we begin by reading into the record a set of stipulations related to the process for seeking a local adult use cannabis license.