Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts charged the architecture firm owner and chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe with participation in a bribery scheme related to the tribe’s plans to build a resort casino.
Lining His Pockets in Exchange for Contracts
Using his position of the chairman of the tribe, Cedric Cromwell, extorted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from the owner of an architecture and design company based in Warwick, Rhode Island. According to the prosecution, between 2014 and 2017 Cromwell received from David DeQuattro, 54-year-old resident of Rhode Island, almost $60,000 in exchange for construction contracts with the tribe.
DeQuattro pleaded not guilty to bribery charges during a video conference which took place on Friday. 55-year-old Cedric Cromwell from Attleboro also pleaded not guilty to both the bribery and extortion charges and a federal court judge in Boston released them on $25,000 in unsecured bond until the next court hearing.
The US Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case and Andrew Lelling, US Attorney for Massachusetts, revealed money Cromwell received was spent on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress. Besides the monetary incentives, Cromwell received from DeQuattro a home gym system, as well as covering the expenses for his birthday celebration at a Boston hotel for a weekend stay.
Lelling, in his statement, further questioned the integrity of Cromwell as a chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, noting that financial difficulties experienced by many American Indians require a leader, not someone who is looking to “line his own pockets”.
Mashpee Removed Cromwell as Chairman
Accusations against Cromwell echoed strongly within the tribe and the tribe’s council removed him as chairman after a unanimous vote during their emergency meeting Friday. Jessie Baird, the vice chair of the council, outlined in a statement the tribe was taking these charges very seriously, as the focus remains on supporting the tribal sovereignty and the tribal land to remain in trust.
The Mashpee gained its federal recognition in 2007 and had its 300 acres of land placed into federal trust under the Obama’s administration. The tribe’s $1 billion First Light casino resort project in Taunton, in partnership with Malaysia-based Genting Group, was halted in a series of legal and political setbacks.
In early 2020, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), moved to rescind the tribe’s land from reservation designation and remove it from federal trust, but a federal judge stalled the process and ordered the Interior Department to come up with new findings, a move BIA appealed.
The House passed legislation to protect the tribe’s reservation, regardless of the court ruling, yet the bill was labeled a “special-interest casino bill” and opposed by President Trump, an action that set course for a dangerous precedent of stripping a tribe of its federally protected lands.