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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Arrested on Extortion and Bribery Charges

The Chairman of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Cedric Cromwell, was arrested Friday morning by the FBI on charges of bribery and extortion.

A release from the federal agency says that Cromwell allegedly used his position as the chairman of the tribe to enrich himself by engaging in a conspiracy with David DeQuattro, the owner of an architecture firm in Rhode Island. DeQuattro was also arrested.

Cromwell was also indicted on four counts of extortion, and one count of conspiring to commit extortion. 

The defendants will make initial appearances via videoconference Friday afternoon [Nov 13].

“The charges allege that 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 E. Lelling. “It appears that Cromwell’s priority was not to serve his people, but to line his own pockets."

The Tribe released a statement Friday morning following Cromwell's arrest. "The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is deeply concerned about Chairman Cedric Cromwell being indicted on several charges," the release stated. "Tribal Council will hold an emergency meeting this afternoon and will be taking immediate action.”

The Cromwell Administration has been leading an effort to build a casino in Taunton, which has been stalled by lawsuits brought by neighbors to the proposed project. Tribal land in Mashpee and Taunton was declared a reservation in 2016, but has since been under threat because of the lawsuits.

A press release from the United States attorney's office for the District of Massachusetts says that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s Gaming Authority, led by Cromwell, contracted with an architecture-and-design company, owned by DeQuattro, in connection with the Tribe’s plans to build the Taunton casino. 

Between approximately July 26, 2014 and May 18, 2017, the architecture firm, through DeQuattro, provided Cromwell with a stream of payments and in-kind benefits valued at $57,549, and, in exchange, the architecture firm was paid approximately $4,966,287 under its contract with the Gaming Authority.

It is alleged that the payments to Cromwell included $44,000 in personal checks written by DeQuattro to CM International Consulting LLC, an entity owned by a friend of Cromwell.

Cromwell directed his friend to deposit DeQuattro’s checks and use the funds to buy treasurer’s checks payable to either Cromwell or a shell entity that Cromwell had incorporated called One Nation Development. DeQuattro also wrote one $10,000 personal check directly to One Nation Development. The indictment alleges that Cromwell spent all of the money on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress. The president of the architecture firm authorized and signed company checks reimbursing DeQuattro for his payments to Cromwell, falsely characterizing the reimbursements as payroll expenses to conceal what they really were.

The alleged in-kind benefits included a used Bowflex Revolution home gym that DeQuattro and the architecture company’s president bought for Cromwell and had delivered to his home. They also agreed to pay for Cromwell’s weekend stay at a Boston hotel after Cromwell texted that he wanted DeQuattro to “get me a nice hotel room at the Four Seasons or a suite at the Seaport Hotel” for his birthday weekend, adding, “I am going to have a special guest with me.”

The charge of paying a bribe to an agent of an Indian tribal government, or being an agent of an Indian tribal government who accepts a bribe, provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiring to commit bribery provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charges of extortion under color of official right and conspiring to commit extortion each provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Cromwell is in his third, four-year term as the head of the tribe's lead board, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council. He was first elected as chairman in 2009.