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Prosecution: This case is about lying, cheating, stealing & shakedowns

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Photo courtesy of Josh Souza

Today in the trial of former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia II, jury selection completed, opening arguments were stated, and several witnesses took the stand.

Once the 12 jurors and the alternates were confirmed, Assistant United States District Attorney Zachary Hafer began to state the prosecution’s case in his opening statement.

“This case is about lying, cheating, stealing, and shakedowns and the man responsible is sitting right there.”

Hafer proceeded to discuss the charges and the reported evidence against Correia.

“Evidence will show that his pitch for SnoOwl was a con.”

Hafer went on to say that money collected from investors for the app was used by Correia to keep a lavish lifestyle and political aspirations instead of making the app a success.

The prosecution then laid out what they feel is evidence that Correia fooled initial SnoOwl investors over the pricey sale of “Find It Networks” that they say never happened along with an agreement that compensation concerning the SnoOwl app was off the table.

Hafer stated that much of the near $400,000 received from investors for the app was spent on himself through a Mercedes, jewelry, clothing, hotels, health products, adult entertainment, student loans, dating services, and casinos.

According to Hafer, evidence will show that while he was mayor of Fall River, Correia created 4 marijuana extortions through non-opposition letters that he charged for.

“There is a price for doing business in Fall River.”

Correia’s attorney Kevin Reddington then proceeded with his opening statement reminding juror’s that the case is in their hands.

“You are the people that determine the facts, not the government, not the FBI, not the IRS.”

Reddington talked about Correia’s hard work and passion for the SnoOwl app and that he was working 24-7 to get the app accepted which Reddington stated did take place which is why Correia did take pay for himself.

Reddington also expressed how Correia feels about Fall River and that he wasn’t trying to fool anyone.

“He loved Fall River. He still loves Fall River! All charges were tracked. He isn’t trying to hide anything. Nobody was duped by this guy.”

According to Reddington, one of the people he certainly wasn’t trying to extort was his Chief of Staff Gen Andrade who the prosecution states was handing half of her salary to Correia.

“Gen Andrade was like a mother.”

Deals signed by several who will be testifying against Correia caused Reddington to tell the jurors that they should think about why those witnesses would have a reason to lie.

“The government ran out of paper giving out their immunity agreements and plea agreements here.”

It was reported during the recess that Mary Sahady, who is a potential witness and under a sequestration order, was asked to stop watching the trial on Zoom along with any other potential witnesses that may be following the trial on Zoom.

After lunch, the first witness to take the stand was Alec Mendes who began Find It Networks with Correia and lived with him at Providence College. According to Mendes, the Find It Network did not make much money before he discontinued working on the project and as far as he knew, it was not worth much money.

The next witness called by the Government was Correia’s friend Christopher Parayno who, before resigning, was Correia’s chief of staff & is Fall River’s current Cemetery & Tree Director. Parayno, who was part of the SnoOwl project, stated in testimony that as far as he knew, no investors made any money back from the SnoOwl app.

The third witness for the day was Christopher Mello who is a software engineer and worked on the SnoOwl app with Correia and Parayano after meeting Correia when he worked at Nordstrom’s. Mello stated that he never gave Correia permission to take a salary or spend money from the app on personal expenses.

Alex Vlahos, who was an owner of SnoOwl at one time and wrote a business plan for the app, took the stand next. Vlahos stated that he never took a salary or used app money on personal expenses. Vlahos also said that Correia never told him that he would be taking a salary or spending company money on expenses. In a question from attorney Reddington, Vlahos made it clear that Correia really loves Fall River and much of his time was spent on the app.

Before court recessed for the day at 4:15 p.m., Fall River orthodontist David Cabeceiras began to take the stand. Cabeceiras, who met Correia through his son, had a close relationship with the defendant and became an investor in SnoOwl. Cabeceiras stated through presented evidence that he invested $145,000 in the app after being impressed with what he believed was the sale of the successful First In Network. Cabeceiras stated that he wrote the 19 checks believing he was investing in the SnoOwl app. A 5% stake in the company in exchange for the investment money was agreed upon between him and Correia.

Correia is facing 24 federal counts of alleged fraud connected to the SnoOwl app in addition to allegedly taking bribes from marijuana vendors.

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