Jury selection begins in corruption case against ex-mayor

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BOSTON (AP) – Jury selection began Tuesday in the fraud and bribery case against a former Massachusetts mayor first elected at the age of 23.

Jasiel Correia is going to trial in Boston‘s federal court on allegations that he defrauded investors who backed a smartphone app he created, and while as mayor of Fall River, extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies.

Correia, now 29, has denied any wrongdoing, insisted the app designed to help businesses connect with consumers was legitimate and blamed the charges on political foes who want to bring him down.

Authorities say before becoming mayor, Correia took money investors gave him for his app called SnoOwl and spent in on things like dating services, luxury hotels, designer clothes, and a Mercedes. Correia is also accused of using his position as mayor to solicit bribes from marijuana businesses seeking to operate there.

For months after his arrest, Correia resisted calls to leave office and survived a bizarre election in March 2019 during which he was recalled by voters and reelected the same night. But he agreed in October 2019 to take a leave of absence after the extortion charges were brought. He was ousted by voters the next month.

Correia faces charges including wire fraud, extortion conspiracy and bribery.

The case will be the first high-profile jury trial to take place in Boston‘s federal court since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The judge has scheduled four days for jury selection and opening statements are expected to begin on Monday.

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