Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell Indicted on Bribery and Extortion Charges

Posted on: November 13, 2020, 09:24h. 

Last updated on: November 13, 2020, 09:51h.

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts, has been indicted on federal bribery and extortion charges in connection to a proposed casino resort in Taunton.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Massachusetts casino
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell was arrested today in Massachusetts on federal charges. (Image: Massachusetts State House News Service)

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts alleges that the 55-year-old Cromwell orchestrated a bribery scheme. He partnered in that action with David DeQuattro, 54, who runs Robin Green Beretta Corp, an architectural firm based in Rhode Island. Federal authorities say Cromwell accepted bribes in exchange for DeQuattro’s company receiving a nearly $5 million design contract.

The Department of Justice asserts Cromwell received $57,549 in payments and in-kind benefits from DeQuattro between July 2014 and May 2017. The in-kind bribes allegedly include DeQuattro paying for hotel stays for Cromwell and his mistress in Boston.

Instead of working honestly on behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoags as their duly elected representative, Cedric Cromwell is accused of using his position as chairman of the tribe to enrich himself by extorting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaging in a conspiracy with David DeQuattro to commit bribery,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division.

“These allegations are extremely troubling and indicate a disdain for the rule of law,” Bonavolonta added. “Both men’s alleged actions undercut the efforts of hard-working tribe members and betrayed their trust.”

Cromwell and DeQuattro have each been indicted on two counts of accepting or paying bribes as an agent or to an agent of an Indian tribal government, and one count of conspiring to commit bribery. Cromwell has additionally been charged with four counts of extortion and another count of conspiring to commit extortion.

If convicted on all counts, Cromwell is facing upwards of 35 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

Scandal After Scandal

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been trying to build a $1 billion casino resort in Taunton for more than half of a decade. Its mission, however, has hit one legal roadblock after another, and during the bumpy ride, the process has become engulfed in controversy.

In 2015, the US Interior Department under the Obama administration agreed to take 151 acres of Taunton land into federal trust that the Mashpee had recently acquired. The acreage is some 40 miles northwest of the Mashpee Wampanoag sovereign reservation. Under the Trump administration, the Interior Department reversed its earlier decision and removed the Taunton land from the federal registrar.

Malaysian gaming giant Genting Group was funding the tribe’s $1 billion casino ambitions, but separated from the Mashpee Wampanoags after the latter Interior ruling.

The tribe has been riddled with political infighting, and the Justice Department has been investigating the tribe for years. A grand jury in August required the tribe to hand over all documents related to its recent elections, finances, and casino contract documents.

Dems Support Tribe

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been supported in Congress by two prominent Democratic lawmakers.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) supported legislation that would have overrode the Trump DOI land decision and declared the Taunton land owned by the tribe as sovereign territory. Outgoing Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts) supported a similar bill in the House.

President Donald Trump successfully urged Republican congresspersons to oppose such legislative efforts.

“Republicans shouldn’t vote for HR 312, a special interest casino bill backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!” the president opined in a 2019 tweet.