Former Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Chair Set to Face Extortion Trial

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

In Massachusetts, the former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Cedric Cromwell, will head to federal court in April on charges of bribery and extortion.

After heading the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts, the former chair now faces several criminal charges. Cedric Cromwell will head to court in late April on allegations of extortion and bribery. Federal prosecutors charged Cromwell in November 2020 with accepting bribes for contracts involving architectural projects. The tribal chair reportedly accepted some $60,000 in cash as well as benefits from an individual named David DeQuattro.

What is Cromwell Accused Of?

According to the United States Attorney Andrew Lelling, Cromwell violated the trust of members within the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The attorney says that Cromwell took part in extortion, accepted bribes and overall, abused his position of power within the tribe.

Lelling also stated that many American Indians face problems in the social and financial sectors. They deserve real leadership, and for Cromwell, it appears that his priority was to line his pockets instead of serving tribal members.

DeQuattro supposedly provided Cromwell payments and perks for his firm to be given design contracts with the tribe. RGB Architects would be able to design the casino resort of the tribe, a project with a price point of $1 billion. The acts by the two supposedly occurred from 2014 to 2017.

Cromwell is represented by attorney Tim Flaherty with his defense coming to the state in US District Court on April 19. The case has seen several delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If found guilty, Cromwell may spend up to three years in prison, plus a year of supervised release plus a fine of $100,000.

Both Cromwell and DeQuattro say they worked together to benefit from the casino goals of the tribe. According to Cromwell, the gifts and money were provided by RGB Architects, but were not bribes. It is unclear how Cromwell plans to prove that the items were not bribes for the casino contracts.

This is not the first time the tribal chair has run into legal issues. Before Cromwell, Glenn Marshall was in charge. In 2009, he was proven guilty of embezzling money from the tribe to the tune of $400,000. He was given three years of prison for his crimes.

We shall see in the next few months how the case evolves and what occurs on both sides. Will Cromwell and DeQuattro earn prison time for their actions?

Major Complications for the Casino Plans

For ten years now, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe have been working towards creating a casino in the Taunton area. The end goal is to secure financing for the tribe that will serve members for years to come.

While the case against the chair is ongoing, the tribe faces issues regarding its federal gaming rights via the US Interior Department. The tribe owns 321 acres of land that it acquired in 2012 in Taunton. Under the Obama administration, the Interior Department agreed that the land could become a federal trust.

This decision cleared the way for the tribe to start developing the casino. The tribe is working with Genting Group to begin the First Light Resort & Casino project. Once the Trump administration was in power, the Interior Department decided that the decision to take the land out of trust and remove it from the Federal Register.

In December the Interior Department changed the decision again and put the land into a trust yet again. In a ruling last year, the decision was stated as final.

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