When Governor Charlie Baker rolled out endorsements from 22 mayors last month, included on the list was a glowing review from Fall River’s young Democratic leader, Jasiel F. Correia II — touted as a symbol of the bipartisan support for the Republican in his reelection campaign.
But by Thursday morning, Baker and his team moved quickly to scrub any mention of Correia from his campaign website, slicing him from a Sept. 6 announcement soon after federal authorities arrested the 26-year-old mayor on wire fraud charges.
The governor’s campaign reduced the number of local mayoral endorsements to 21 on the press release, but without changing the date, leaving the casual visitor perhaps unaware that the now-indicted Correia was among those endorsing Baker over his Democratic challenger, Jay Gonzalez.
“These charges are very serious, and they should be pursued. And because of that, we don’t believe we should continue to carry his endorsement,” Baker said Thursday after a campaign event in Pepperell with Rick Green, the GOP nominee in the Third Congressional District.
Baker said he and his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, are “very proud” of the connections they’ve forged with local officials.
“But as I said, I think those charges are very serious,” he said. “I also hope that the folks down in Fall River have a conversation very quickly about how they plan to continue to manage the city’s affairs under these circumstances.”
Correia is accused of stealing more than $230,000 from people who invested in his Internet startup, SnoOwl, using their funds not for the business but for personal expenses including a Mercedes, designer clothes, and adult entertainment, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday.
The office of US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling wrote on Twitter that Correia is accused of “defrauding investors & using funds to pay for lavish lifestyle and political campaign.” He is formally charged with nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns.
Correia acknowledged last year to The Herald News of Fall River that he was under FBI investigation, telling the newspaper, “I know that at the end of the day I’m not going to get into any trouble because I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Correia had also raised $76,650 in donations since April toward a legal defense fund, including $10,000 he transferred from his campaign committee in mid-September, according to campaign finance records.
Baker said he wasn’t aware that Correia was under investigation when he highlighted his endorsement. At the time, Correia said Baker and Polito “are leading by example” and that they were committed to the South Coast.
“Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito have championed Fall River and deserve our support for four more years,” Correia said in the original Sept. 6 release.