Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe arrested for bribery

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The chairman of a Massachusetts tribe and the owner of an architecture firm have been arrested and charged in a bribery scheme involving the tribe’s plans to build a resort casino, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Cedric Cromwell, 55, of Attleboro, and David DeQuattro, 54, of Warwick, Rhode Island, were indicted on charges of accepting or paying bribes and conspiring to commit bribery. Cromwell, who is chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, also faces extortion charges.

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Joseph Bonavolonta, the head of the FBI’s Boston office, said Cromwell is accused of using his position as chairman to extort tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaging in a conspiracy with DeQuattro to commit bribery.

Authorities said DeQuattro, who owns an architecture-and-design company, provided Cromwell with payments and other benefits valued at nearly $60,000 between 2014 and 2017 in exchange for nearly $5 million in contracts with the tribe’s gaming authority, which Cromwell also leads.

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The indictment alleges Cromwell spent all of the money on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress. DeQuattro also purchased Cromwell a home gym and paid for a weekend stay at a Boston hotel for his birthday, according to the indictment.

“Many American Indians face a host of difficult financial and social issues,” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said in a statement. “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.”

Cromwell and a lawyer for DeQuattro didn’t respond to emails seeking comment. The defendants are scheduled to appear in Boston federal court by videoconference later Friday.

The Cape Cod-based tribe, which traces its ancestry to the Native Americans who shared a fall harvest meal with the Pilgrims in 1621, is building First Light casino in Taunton, a city south of Boston.

But it has faced a series of legal setbacks in recent years that have forced it to halt the project.

Earlier this year, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs said it would move to rescind the tribe’s 300-acre reservation designation and remove the land from federal trust.

A federal judge in June halted the move and ordered the Interior Department to review the matter and issue new findings.

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