Former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell and entrepreneur David DeQuattro were convicted this month on charges of bribery. The convictions come after a federal jury trial examined the co-defendants’ actions during plans to build a casino in Taunton, Mass.
Cromwell was convicted of:
- Accepting bribes as an agent of an Indian tribal government;
- Extortion under color of official right;
- Conspiracy to commit extortion.
DeQuattro faced conviction of bribing an agent of an Indian tribal government.
“No one is above the law. That rings true today, loudly and clearly,” United States Attorney Rachael Rollins said. “Today’s guilty verdict makes clear that the jury saw this case for what it is – a textbook example of public corruption.”
How the tribal resort project played a role in the scandal
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts has had ongoing plans for a $1 billion resort state casino project in Taunton.
The casino, called First Light, broke ground in 2016. Plans include casino gaming, a hotel, dining, entertainment, shopping and a water park. The project has suffered years of setbacks, opposition and legal roadblocks.
First Light gained some steam in December, when the tribe finally received affirmed status from the Biden Administration.
The accusations against Cromwell and DeQuattro, however, still are shining a negative light on the project.
Cromwell is the former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts. Between 2015 and 2017, $5 million in contracts transpired between Cromwell and a Rhode Island architecture firm owned by DeQuattro.
The criminal bribery charges come into play because Cromwell accepted three bribes from DeQuattro during those three years:
- DeQuattro wrote a $10,000 personal check in November 2015 that Cromwell deposited into the bank account of his company, One Nation Development LLC. The company self-describes as one that helps with tribal economic development;
- DeQuattro purchased a $1,700 piece of used exercise equipment, a Bowflex, in August 2016. He had it delivered it to Cromwell’s home upon Cromwell’s request;
- In May 2017, Cromwell asked DeQuattro to foot the bill for his three-night hotel stay at Harbor View at Seaport Boston Hotel. DeQuattro complied to the tune of $1,800.
Rollins says it’s clear the intentions behind the two defendants’ transactions during this time period were self–seeking and criminal.
“Mr. Cromwell and Mr. DeQuattro entered into a business arrangement that was fueled by bribery for their own selfish and unlawful gain,” Rollins said.
Accepted bribes were an ‘abuse’ and an ‘affront’ to the tribe
Cromwell found himself indicted for the bribery and extortion charges in 2020 and was removed as chairman of the tribe.
“Mr. Cromwell exploited his position and the trust placed in him by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe,” Rollins said.
Joseph Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI, called Cromwell’s actions an “abuse of his elected position” as chairman of the tribe.
“The quid pro quo scheme that he orchestrated with David DeQuattro was an affront to the Tribe that elected him to serve their best interests,” Bonavolonta said.
He also added the case serves as an example of the FBI’s responsibility to address government corruption with a heavy hand.
“This is exactly why the FBI will not hesitate to investigate elected officials who use their positions to commit illegal acts,” Bonavolonta said. “We are committed to protecting the integrity of government at all levels from the plunder of public corruption.”
Tribal members ‘disappointed’ in former chairman
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe’s new chairman, Brian Weeden, called Cromwell’s case an “unfortunate chapter” for the tribe.
“Tribal members are disappointed in Cedric Cromwell,” Weeden said in a statement. “We place a tremendous amount of trust in our elected officials. Cedric abused that trust.”
Not the first Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman to face federal conviction
Unfortunately, Cromwell isn’t the first Mashpee Wampanoag chairman to come under the spotlight for federal crimes.
Glenn Marshall, who served as the tribe’s chairman before Cromwell, pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of fraud, embezzlement and violating campaign finance laws.
In light of the back-to-back tribe scandals, Weeden has said the tribe will reassess its long-standing plans of pursuing a casino. Instead, he hopes the tribe will “focus on healing our nation.”
Cromwell and DeQuattro could face up to 20 years in prison
The maximum penalty for bribing an Indian tribal government agent – or accepting a bribe as one – is a 10–year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for each of the extortion under color of official right and conspiring to commit extortion charges is a 20-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
Sentencing for Cromwell and DeQuattro takes place on Sept. 9, imposed by U.S. Senior District Court Judge, Douglas P. Woodlock.