Ex-tribal chief convicted in casino bribery case

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Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell sits behind his desk at the Government Center in Mashpee, Mass., in this file photo. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A former chief of a Massachusetts Native American tribe has been convicted of bribery and extortion charges related to the tribe’s longtime casino project, federal prosecutors said.

But Cedric Cromwell, former leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag, was cleared by the federal jury in Boston of certain charges, including one count of extortion and one count of bribery conspiracy, prosecutors said.

David DeQuattro, Cromwell’s co-defendant and owner of an architectural practice in Providence, Rhode Island, was also convicted of bribery but cleared of other charges, according to the office of Rachael Rollins, a US attorney from Massachusetts.

Both will be sentenced in September.

Cromwell’s attorney did not respond to emails seeking comment, but DeQuattro’s attorney Martin Weinberg said he would seek a “full acquittal” for his client.

Mashpee Wampanoag President Brian Weeden said the case represents an “unfortunate chapter” for the tribe of about 3,000 members.

Cromwell’s predecessor as tribal chairman, Glenn Marshall, was alsofederally sentenced prison in 2009 after pleading guiltytherefor violating federal campaign finance laws, embezzling tribal funds and other charges of fraud while working with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff as the tribe successfully won federal recognition in 2007.

Weeden, who said the tribal leaders intended toreevaluate their long and tortuous pursuit of a casino,hopes to put the matter in its rear view mirror and “focus on healing our nation”.

“Tribal members are disappointed with Cedric Cromwell,” Weeden said in a statement. “We place great trust in our elected officials. Cédric abused this trust.

The 10-day trial had been delayed for months by the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal prosecutors argued that Cromwell accepted $10,000, a home gym system and a weekend at an upscale Boston hotel from DeQuattro in exchange for nearly $5 million in casino project contracts between 2015 and 2017.

“The quid pro quo scheme he orchestrated with David DeQuattro was an affront to the tribe that elected him to serve their best interests,” FBI Boston bureau chief Joseph Bonavolonta said in a statement.

Cromwell, who was removed as president after his 2020 indictment, denied seeking or accepting bribes. DeQuattro maintained that he was simply donating to Cromwell’s political campaign.

Cromwell still faces charges of filing false tax returns for failing to report about $176,000 of income to the IRS.

The tribe’s casino project has faced years of legal setbacksbut received a boost in Decemberwhen President Joe Biden’s administration asserted the tribe’s sovereign reservation.

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, whose origins can be traced back to the indigenous peoples the pilgrims encountered four centuries ago,innovated in 2016about a billion dollar resort casino in a former industrial park in Taunton, a town south of Boston.

Dubbed First Light, the complex was to include a hotel and shopping, dining and entertainment options, including a water park.

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