Federal prosecutors said Thursday that a former head of a Massachusetts Native American tribe has been convicted of bribery and extortion charges in connection with the tribe’s long-planned casino project, according to federal authorities.
However, Cedric Cromwell, a former leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag, was found not guilty by a federal jury in Boston of some charges, including one count of extortion and one count of bribery conspiracy, according to prosecutors. Cromwell was also found not guilty of one count of extortion and one count of bribery conspiracy.
According to the office of Rachael Rollins, the United States attorney for Massachusetts, David DeQuattro, Cromwell’s co-defendant and the owner of an architecture business in Providence, Rhode Island, was also convicted of bribery but was cleared of other crimes.
The two defendants will be sentenced in September of this year.
Cromwell’s attorney did not reply to requests for comment to news sources, but DeQuattro’s attorney, Martin Weinberg, stated that his client will be pursuing a “full acquittal” on his client’s behalf.
Mashpee Wampanoag head Brian Weeden said the case reflects an “unfortunate chapter” in the tribe’s history, which numbers around 3,000 members.
While working with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to secure federal recognition for the tribe, Cromwell’s predecessor, Glenn Marshall, was sentenced to federal prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws, embezzling tribal funds, and other fraud charges while working with Abramoff during the tribe’s successful push for federal recognition in 2007.
He has stated that tribe officials aim to evaluate their lengthy and torturous pursuit of a casino and that he is hopeful that they will be able to put the lawsuit behind them and “concentrate on mending our nation.”
A statement from Weeden claimed;
“Tribal members are dissatisfied with the performance of Cedric Cromwell. Our elected leaders have a high level of public confidence, which is well deserved. Cedric exploited his position of trust.”
The coronavirus pandemic had forced the postponement of the 10-day experiment for several months.
What did Cromwell Receive?
In exchange for over $5 million in casino project contracts between 2015 and 2017, federal prosecutors said that Cromwell got $10,000 in cash, a home gym equipment, and a weekend stay at a luxury Boston hotel from DeQuattro, according to federal prosecutors.
Deputy Director of the FBI’s Boston office, Joseph Bonavolonta, said in a statement that “the quid pro quo plan that he hatched with David DeQuattro was an insult to the Tribe that elected him to represent its best interests.”
Cromwell, who was ousted from his position as chair following his arrest in 2020, has stated that he did not seek or receive bribes. DeQuattro has insisted that he was only making a donation to Cromwell’s political campaign when the incident occurred.
Cromwell is also facing allegations of submitting fake tax returns for failing to declare around $176,000 in income to the Internal Revenue Service.
However, the tribe’s casino proposal received a boost in December when President Joe Biden’s administration recognized the tribe’s sovereign reservation, a move that had been delayed by years of legal challenges.
This year, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which can trace its origins back to the Indigenous people the Pilgrims visited more than 400 years before the American Revolution, broke construction on a $1 billion resort casino in a former industrial park in Taunton, Massachusetts, a city south of Boston.
The resort, which was to be known as First Light, was to have a hotel as well as retail, eating, and entertainment choices, as well as a water park.
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