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Second alleged co-conspirator agrees to testify against Mayor Correia

Target 12

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – A second person once close to the embattled mayor of Fall River has agreed to testify against him in his upcoming federal trial, according to court documents unsealed Thursday morning.

Antonio Costa, 51, of Fall River, pleaded guilty at U.S. District Court in Boston earlier this week to two counts in a bribery and extortion scheme. Now, in a “cooperation agreement” signed Sept. 12, Costa has pledged to testify against Correia in exchange for federal prosecutors recommending a lesser sentence.

Costa is described as “Middleman #2” in the indictment against Correia, accused of facilitating two bribes from marijuana vendors looking to open up shop in Fall River.

According to court documents, in one of those exchanges, Costa handed over $70,000 to the mayor and kept $30,000 for himself.

Prosecutors have said Correia accepted the bribes in exchange for signing what’s called a “non-opposition letter” for the vendors. The letters are a key step in being able to open up a marijuana business in the city. (In light of the indictment, state leaders are currently reviewing all marijuana licensing in Fall River.)

Costa is the second person whose willingness to cooperate against Correia has been made public.

On Tuesday Target 12 reported Hildegar Camara, whom Correia hired in 2016 to run a job training program, also agreed to cooperate. Camara’s agreement was signed Sept. 4, two days before Correia was arrested in the public corruption scheme.

Camara is scheduled to plead guilty to six counts for his role in the case Thursday afternoon.

David Hebert, 54, of Westport, who is described as “Middleman #1” in court documents, has also pleaded guilty in the case.

The additional charges filed this month against Correia accuse the 27-year-old of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana vendors looking to open up shop in Fall River. He has pleaded not guilty. Three local lawmakers are asking state regulators to halt the issuing of pot licenses in the city due to the bribery allegations.

Last fall, Correia was indicted on federal fraud charges connected to his now-defunct startup SnoOwl, accused of bilking investors of $230,000.

Correia has pleaded not guilty to all 24 counts he’s facing and vowed to take the case to trial.

On Tuesday, he squeaked into the next round of this year’s mayoral race in the city by winning the second-most votes in a preliminary election. School Committee member Paul Coogan received 62% of the vote, while Correia received just 21%. The general election is Nov. 5.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday night the Fall River City Council voted to pursue litigation in an effort to enforce a recent vote to remove Correia from office and install an acting mayor. Correia has so far ignored the vote and continued to lead the city from Government Center.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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