Ex-Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell Charged with Tax Evasion

Posted on: March 24, 2021, 06:38h. 

Last updated on: March 24, 2021, 10:04h.

Former Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell has been charged by a federal grand jury with tax evasion. The new charges come two months after Cromwell was indicted for orchestrating a bribery scheme related to the tribe’s troubled $1 billion First Light casino project in Taunton, Mass.

Cedric Cromwell
Cedric Cromwell in his office at Mashpee Wampanoag Government Center before he was ousted in November. Cromwell was recently charged with tax evasion. (Image: Merrily Cassidy)

According to prosecutors, the 55-year-old failed to report $177,393 worth of bribes as income between 2014 and 2017. He is also accused of failing to declare consultancy work he completed for a carbon offsetting company.

The Mashpee ousted Cromwell from power in November in the wake of the bribery indictments.

He is accused of using his position as Mashpee chairman to enrich himself by “extorting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.”

Prosecutors also allege he engaged in a conspiracy to commit bribery with David DeQuattro, the owner of the architecture firm that was chosen to design the stalled First Light project. DeQuattro has denied bribing Cromwell.

If found guilty of accepting bribes, Cromwell faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The tax charges carry up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. Cromwell has pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges.

First Light Casino Snuffed Out

In 2016, with financial backing from Malaysian casino giant Genting and a green light from the federal government, the tribe was ready to break ground on the First Light casino.

But a lawsuit funded by rival casino developer Neil Bluhm argued the Obama-era US Interior Department had erred by taking the land into trust for the tribe.

The court agreed, and so did the Trump administration. The decision was reversed and the Mashpee was stripped of its reservation and, with it, sovereignty, and its ability to build the casino.

Massachusetts lawmakers have since launched federal legislation in the hope that Congress can reinstate the tribe’s lands.

New Hope for First Light Casino

The DOI’s decision left the Mashpee in economic disarray and $500 million in debt to Genting. Meanwhile, the tribe was ridden with political infighting and rumors swirled alleging financial mismanagement.

Over the last few years, a federal grand jury has subpoenaed financial records pertaining to the tribe and the tribal gaming authority. It has also subpoenaed the tribe’s current and former treasurers in the course of an investigation that appears to be ongoing.

With Cromwell out of the picture, there may be a new cause for hope for the First Light project and the tribe’s goal of economic self-sufficiency.

The Biden administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress are likely to look more favorably on legislation to restore Mashpee lands. Meanwhile, the appointment of the first Native American Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, is unlikely to harm the tribe’s plight.