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Embattled Fall River Mayor Survives Preliminary Election

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP/CBS) — A Massachusetts mayor facing multiple federal corruption charges will be on the November ballot after surviving a preliminary election.

Jasiel Correia was one of the two top vote-getters in Fall River's preliminary election for mayor Tuesday. He now faces off against school committee member Paul Coogan and community advocate Erica Scott-Pacheco in the Nov. 5 general election.

"Tonight is a victory. Tonight narrows the field down," Correia said. "So we're going to win and we're going to win big on November 5th."

The 27-year-old Correia pleaded not guilty this month to charges accusing him of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies.

But it's not clear if Correia will immediately step down.

Jasiel Correia
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia addresses supporters after preliminary election (WBZ-TV) CBS Boston

Correia has steadfastly denied the mounting accusations and refused to resign. He lost a March recall vote, only to be re-elected on the same night. And he simply ignored the city council's vote to temporarily oust him last week.

"I've continued to maintain my innocence these things are totally made up," Correia said Tuesday night. "They're false. There is no proof, there is no evidence."

Correia pleaded not guilty this month to charges accusing him of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies. He has also pleaded not guilty to federal charges of defrauding investors in a smartphone app he was developing in order fund a lavish lifestyle and further his political career.

The city council last week voted to temporarily remove Correia from office, but Correia has refused to leave, saying the council lacks the authority.

Paul Coogan
Paul Coogan (WBZ-TV)

Paul Coogan got roughly 5,000 more votes than Correia Tuesday.

"Hard work pays off. Honesty pays off. Stability pays off and integrity pays off," Coogan said. "And that's what they picked tonight."

As Fall River voters headed to the polls Tuesday, the marijuana extortion case against the embattled mayor moved forward in Boston.

Antonio Costa, 51, of Fall River, and David Hebert, 54, of Westport, both pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of extortion, conspiracy and making false statements and were released pending their sentencing.

Authorities say the two men served as "middlemen" for Correia as he accepted cash bribes in exchange for issuing official letters needed to obtain a state license to operate a marijuana retail business. At least four business owners paid a total of $600,000 in bribes, authorities say.

Documents unsealed Tuesday also show that Hildegar Camara, who was appointed by Correia to head a local job training program, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. The 58-year-old Fall River resident faces extortion and conspiracy charges, was placed on paid leave from his government job this week, and is due in court Thursday.

The fourth co-conspirator in the case is Correia's former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade. The 48-year-old Somerset resident hasn't yet entered a formal plea to charges including extortion, conspiracy, and bribery.

Correia was once a rising political star in Massachusetts after becoming the old mill city's youngest mayor when he was elected in 2015 at age 23.

The Democrat has proven resilient at the ballot box. He survived a bizarre March election in which he was recalled by voters and then promptly reelected the same night.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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