Former Mashpee Wampanoag Chair Accused of Bribery, Extortion to Stand Trial

Posted on: February 1, 2022, 08:05h. 

Last updated on: February 1, 2022, 01:01h.

Cedric Cromwell, the former chair of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts, will begin facing criminal allegations of bribery and extortion in federal court on April 19.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Cedric Cromwell
Cedric Cromwell, former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, pictured in his office in 2019. In April, Cromwell will be in a Boston federal courtroom to face criminal charges of bribery and extortion. (Image: The Boston Globe)

In November 2020, Cromwell was accused by federal prosecutors of accepting bribes in exchange for approving nearly $5 million in architectural contracts. Cromwell then allegedly abused his power as tribal chair by accepting almost $60,000 in cash and other benefits from co-defendant David DeQuattro, according to the federal indictment.

“Mr. Cromwell violated the trust he owed the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe by committing extortion, accepting bribes, and otherwise abusing his position,” said United States Attorney Andrew Lelling.

Many American Indians face a host of difficult financial and social issues. They require — and deserve — real leadership. But it appears that Cromwell’s priority was not to serve his people, but to line his own pockets,” Lelling added.

DeQuattro is accused of providing Cromwell with the payments and perks in order for his firm — RGB Architects — to win the Mashpee Wampanoag design contracts for the tribe’s long-planned $1 billion casino resort. The criminal acts allegedly occurred between 2014 through 2017.

Cromwell and his attorney Tim Flaherty will begin making his defense on April 19 in the US District Court in Boston. The case has been continually delayed by COVID-19.

If convicted, Cromwell faces up to three years in federal prison, one year of supervised release, and a $100,000 fine.

Casino Controversy

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has spent a decade trying to secure its future economic prosperity with a casino resort in Taunton. But the US Interior Department has complicated the tribe’s federal gaming rights regarding its 321 acres of land in Taunton and Mashpee that it acquired in 2012.

The Interior Department under the Obama administration agreed to take the land into federal trust, therefore clearing the way for the tribe and its financier and development partner Genting Group to proceed with the First Light Resort & Casino. But under the Trump administration, the Interior Department said it previously erred in taking the land into trust and removed the acreage from the Federal Register.

Last December, the Interior Department again reversed its own position, and ruled under the Biden administration that the land is indeed sovereign territory. The 2021 ruling, Interior officials say, is final.

The Mashpee people trace their origins to the first Thanksgiving, as the tribe the Pilgrims encountered four centuries ago.

Cromwell Denies Allegations

Cromwell and DeQuattro maintain that they did not conspire to mutually benefit off the tribe’s casino ambitions. Cromwell claims the money and gifts, including a Bowflex Revolution home gym and a weekend in an executive suite at the Seaport Boston Hotel — both paid for by RGB Architects — were not bribes.

If federal prosecutors are able to successfully make their cases and prove criminal misconduct, it wouldn’t be the first time a former Mashpee Wampanoag chair was found guilty on criminal charges.

Cromwell’s predecessor, Glenn Marshall, was found guilty in 2009 of embezzling $400,000 from the tribe. He was sentenced to three years in prison.