Cedric Cromwell, former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, was convicted of bribery and extortion charges by a federal court in Boston on Thursday.
Cromwell was indicted in January 2021 and accused of extorting almost $60,000 from an architecture firm that was overseeing the development of the tribe’s proposed First Light Casino in Taunton, Mass.
The owner of Rhode Island-based RGB Architects, David DeQuattro, was also convicted of bribery in the case.
Cromwell was cleared of some charges, including one count of extortion and a count of bribery conspiracy, according to prosecutors. But he was found guilty of accepting $10,000 from RGB, plus a home gym system and a stay in a swanky Boston hotel.
Prosecutors said he used the tribe’s $5 million contract with the firm as leverage. The contract could be terminated for cause with one week’s notice, or for convenience with a month’s notice. This allowed Cromwell to solicit bribes in exchange for “favorable action or inaction” on the contract, prosecutors said.
Last week, the jury heard that Cromwell was enraged when RGB sent him second-hand gym equipment rather than a brand-new set.
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,” Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI’s Boston office, said in a statement.
DeQuattro’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, had argued his client merely donated to Cromwell’s political campaign. But the architect paid checks into a shell company controlled by Cromwell called One Nation Development, according to prosecutors. Cromwell used the money not for his political campaigns, but for his own personal expenses. These included payments to his mistress, they claimed.
Separately, Cromwell also faces tax evasion charges for failing to report around $176,000 in income to the IRS.
Both Cromwell and DeQuattro are scheduled to be sentenced in September.
‘Healing the Nation’
The $1 billion First Light project, financed by Genting, was ready to break ground in 2016. But the project was torpedoed by a federal court ruling that later caused the Trump administration to decide to remove the tribe’s land from trust.
But the tide turned again. In December, the Biden administration affirmed the tribe’s sovereign land, and the project is now back from the dead.
Cromwell’s predecessor as Mashpee chairman, Glenn Marshall, was also convicted on corruption charges. He served three and a half years for making illegal campaign contributions, embezzling nearly $400,000 from the tribe, filing false tax returns, and fraudulently receiving Social Security disability benefits.
Cromwell’s successor, Brian Weeden, said the tribe could now put all this behind it and “focus on healing our nation.”
“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.”
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