From boy wonder mayor to defendant

Correia vowed to revive Fall River

JASIEL CORREIA was in full performance mode earlier this year when he was interviewed by CommonWealth contributor Ted Seifer for this profile in the magazine’s spring issue.

The mayor of Fall River, elected at age 23 with a vow to revitalize the struggling former mill city, was showcasing his vigor and commitment to being a hands-on leader. After a March storm dumped more snow on the city, Correia climbed into the cab of a Ford truck with a plow on the front of it and started clearing city streets himself along with municipal public works crews.

“The only thing I’m always worried about is that I’m gonna, God forbid, hit somebody’s car. That would just be the worst,” he said. “You know, ‘Mayor hits somebody’s vehicle’—that’s not a good story.”

No, that would not be a good story. But neither would it be “the worst.”

That may have come yesterday, with Correia hauled into federal court in leg shackles and handcuffs after he was arrested at 6:30 in the morning on a 13-count indictment of fraud and tax charges related to a start-up company he founded.

Correia vaulted into office in 2015, a year after Fall River voters recalled another youthful mayor, Will Flanagan. Correia defeated Sam Sutter, the former Bristol district attorney, who won the recall race but only lasted a year in office. As early as their 2015 face-off, questions were raised about Correia’s company, SnoOwl, with Sutter questioning in one debate what the company’s investors were getting.

The indictment unsealed yesterday says they received nothing — while alleging that Correia spent nearly two-thirds of the $360,000 that investors ponied up to fund “a lavish lifestyle” that included purchases of a Mercedes-Benz and jewelry for himself and a former girlfriend.

As CommonWealth’s earlier profile lays out, Correia has been in a nasty standoff with Ken Fiola, the longtime director of the nonprofit Fall River Office for Economic Development, which operates independently of city government. The story says Correia suspected that Fiola was responsible for putting the feds on his trail and then leaking word of an investigation to the press.

Fiola said Correia told him in March 2017 that the FBI was investigating him. Correia, however, said it was ludicrous to think he would tell someone “I really don’t have any relationship with. I didn’t tell my friends, my confidants, but I tell Ken Fiola?”

For all the talk about the rough-and-tumble of big city politics, the backstabbing, intrigue, and assorted power plays can often be much more brutal in small cities like Fall River, where everyone knows everyone.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Fall River has been showing some positive signs of late. The city’s bond rating is up, and 2,000 jobs arrived with the opening of a new Amazon distribution center there. Positive developments have a way of generating further good things, and the Spindle City can surely use all the good news it can get.

Yesterday’s developments certainly don’t help.