Former tribal leader convicted in MA Casino bribery case

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A jury has convicted a former Mashpee Wampanoag leader of racketeering and bribery in connection with winning casino project contracts. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Serious allegations

A former Massachusetts Native American tribal leader has been convicted for his role in a casino bribery scandal. The conviction of the former leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Thursday relates to allegations of extortion and bribery over a potential casino project. The 10-day trial was supposed to take place months ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays.

still faces charges of filing false tax returns

The ex-tribal leader in question, Cedric Cromwell, managed to avoid certain indictments from the Boston federal jury, including a single charge of bribery, conspiracy and racketeering. The 55-year-old still faces charges of filing false tax returns after failing to report around $176,000 in income to the IRS.

Cromwell’s co-defendant in the case was David DeQuattro, who owns a Rhode Island-based architectural firm. While the jury acquitted him of most charges, he was also convicted of bribery.

The verdict for the two men will be announced in September. The bribery allegations each carry a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. The racketeering charges carry a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

Widespread corruption

Prosecutors alleged that between 2015 and 2017 Cromwell accepted bribes from DeQuattro in the form of $10,000, a weekend hotel stay at an upscale Boston property and a home gym. In return, Cromwell awarded DeQuattro nearly $5 million worth of casino project contracts.

FBI Boston Bureau chief 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… to serve their best interests”.

Cromwell was both the leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the president of the tribe’s Gaming Authority at the time of the crimes.

Following his 2020 arraignment, the Tribe removed Cromwell from his presidency. He has repeatedly denied seeking or accepting bribes. DeQuattro has also maintained his innocence, claiming he only made a donation to Cromwell’s political campaign. While Cromwell’s attorney has made no formal comment on the matter the convictionDeQuattro’s attorney said his client would seek a “complete acquittal.”

Permanent problems for the tribe

Current Mashpee Wampanoag chairman Brian Weeden commented on the case, calling it an “unfortunate chapter” for the tribe, which has about 3,000 members. The tribe has struggled for many years to develop a casino in Massachusetts. While it broke ground on its $1 billion casino resort project in Taunton in 2016, the First Light Resort and Casino project has since stalled due to a long-running legal battle over the land.

Glenn Marshall was sentenced to federal prison in 2009

Cromwell isn’t the first leader of the tribe to get into trouble with the authorities. His predecessor, Glenn Marshall, was jailed in federal prison in 2009 on federal campaign finance violations, embezzlement of tribal funds, and various other fraud charges. The crimes were related to Marshall’s work with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2007 when the tribe was seeking federal recognition.

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