FALL RIVER, Mass. — An embattled Massachusetts mayor charged with defrauding investors in a company he formed before his election is digging in his heels, saying he is "100 percent innocent."
In just weeks, Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia has gone from being best known for his election victory when he was only 23 years old to becoming the focus of a criminal investigation that saw him indicted on federal charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns.
He called the past week "the most difficult of my life."
Correia adamantly said he would not resign from office at a news conference Tuesday morning from Fall River City hall.
A 6 p.m. special session of the City Council was called to discuss if removing a mayor is possible under the city's Home Rule Charter. It's still unclear what action the council has the authority to make or intends to make, but a vote of no-confidence is expected.
And Correia is also reportedly being evicted from his apartment in Fall River. According to the Bristol County Sheriff's office, Correia was served an eviction notice Monday morning. It's not yet clear why.
On Oct. 11, Correia was arrested by officials from multiple agencies and hauled into a courtroom. An unsealed indictment alleges that he collected more than $360,000 from investors to develop an app that was supposed to help businesses connect with target consumers, federal authorities say. Instead, he spent more than $230,000 of the investor funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle and advance his political career, officials say.
"His actions were underhanded, shameless and greedy," said FBI agent Hank Shaw. "Mr. Correia blurred the lines between public business and private duties, using investor funds as his own personal ATM, systemically looting almost a quarter-million dollars."
He pleaded not guilty in Boston's federal court, told reporters he believes he will be vindicated and said he will "absolutely not" resign.
"I look forward to my day in court to share my side of the story and to clear my name," he said in a written statement.
Correia was recently among 10 Democratic mayors in Massachusetts who chose to endorse Republican Gov. Charlie Baker for re-election in November over Baker's Democratic challenger, Jay Gonzalez.
Terry MacCormack, a Baker campaign spokesman, said the governor believes the charges are "very serious" and will work with officials to ensure the city has strong leadership as Correia's case moves forward.
The governor's re-election campaign Thursday removed Correia's endorsement from its website.
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