A former Massachusetts Native American tribal leader has been convicted for his role in a casino bribery scandal. The Thursday conviction of the former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe leader relates to charges of extortion and bribery over a potential casino project. The ten-day trial was due to take place months ago but the COVID-19 pandemic led to delays.
still has to face charges relating to the filing of false tax returns
The ex-tribal leader in question, Cedric Cromwell, did manage to avoid certain charges from the federal jury in Boston, including a single count of bribery conspiracy and extortion. The 55-year-old still has to face charges relating to the filing of false tax returns after he failed to report approximately $176,000 worth of income to the IRS.
Cromwell’s co-defendant in the case was David DeQuattro, who owns a Rhode Island-based architecture firm. While the jury cleared him of most charges, he was also convicted of bribery.
The sentencing for the two men will take place in September. The bribery-related charges each carry a possible prison sentence of up to ten years, as well as a fine worth up to $250,000. The extortion-related charges can carry a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.
Prosecutors alleged that Cromwell took bribes from DeQuattro between 2015 and 2017 in the form of $10,000, a weekend hotel stay at an upmarket Boston property, and a home gym system. In return, Cromwell awarded almost $5m worth of casino project contracts to DeQuattro.
FBI Boston office head Joseph Bonavolonta described the arrangement as a “quid pro quo scheme that he (Cromwell) orchestrated with David DeQuattro,” adding that it was “an affront to the Tribe that elected him to serve their best interests.”
Following his indictment in 2020, the tribe removed Cromwell from his chair position. He has repeatedly denied that he sought or accepted bribes. DeQuattro has also maintained his innocence, claiming that he was just making a donation to Cromwell’s political campaign. While Cromwell’s lawyer has made no formal comment on the conviction, DeQuattro’s lawyer said that his client will seek “complete acquittal.”
Long-running issues for the tribe
Commenting on the case, current Mashpee Wampanoag chair Brian Weeden labeled it an “unfortunate chapter” for the tribe that has about 3,000 members. The tribe has battled for many years to develop a casino in Massachusetts. While it broke ground on its $1bn casino resort project in 2016 in Taunton, the First Light Resort and Casino project has stalled ever since due to a long-running legal battle regarding the land.
Glenn Marshall went to federal prison in 2009
Cromwell is not the first leader of the tribe to find himself in trouble with the authorities. His predecessor Glenn Marshall went to federal prison in 2009 due to violations of federal campaign finance laws, as well as embezzling tribal funds, and various other fraud-related charges. The offenses related to Marshall’s work with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2007 when the tribe was looking for federal recognition.