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“The Embattled.” Popular Podcast Airs Mass Pot Industry Dirty Laundry

The team at Swindled puts spotlight on alcohol and cannabis licensing in the Bay State

Voiced by an anonymous “concerned citizen,” the long-running true-crime fave Swindled has cleverly summarized 200-plus sagas of con artists, intriguing thieves, and scoundrels of all stripes. So it’s not surprising that producers found their way to Massachusetts.

In its newest episode, “The Embattled,” the podcast details the rise and plummet of former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who is currently serving a six-year federal sentence for fraud and extortion, among other things. Swindled always opens with a short intro vignette though, and for this installment the concerned host chose the cases of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner.

Regardless of how one feels about Turner and Wilkerson—that they were unfairly set up and targeted, or that they were crooks who deserved to go down—the fact remains that, at its core, their prosecutions partly stemmed from unbelievable dysfunction at the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. It’s an elaborate story that starts nearly a century ago, but Swindled sums it up efficiently enough to segue to the main event. … 

As for Correia, the boy mayor and tech entrepreneur was a big-talking bullshit Picasso long before he used the top position in his native city to improve the lives of himself, a small gaggle of cronies, and few others. He was already in deep shit with the feds over crooked business dealings when a “2019 indictment leveled additional charges against the then-mayor, accusing him of extorting payments from people seeking approvals to open marijuana dispensaries in Fall River.” Per the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General, the weed-related charges resulted from a joint investigation by that office and various federal agencies.

Even those who followed the Fall River fiasco as it unfolded in real time will appreciate this episode of Swindled, which presents Correia and his co-conspirators as desperate imbeciles. At first, they started asking people who wanted to open a dispensary to fork over $250,000; by the time they hit rock bottom, they were reportedly willing to take just a tenth of that to sign a Host Community Agreement, therefore allowing a business to operate in their borders.

The industry has changed in some regards since Correia went down. Most notably, last year, the Cannabis Control Commission rewrote regulations around HCAs, effectively limiting the ability of towns and cities to gouge and extort prospective pot shops and facilities. 

While it is unlikely that many municipal leaders were as over-the-top unscrupulous as Correia in their dispensary dealings, this recap will nevertheless have you wondering how many shakedowns took place in commonwealth cannabis that we’ll never even hear about.