Wampanoag Tribe Leader Cedric Cromwell Indicted for Bribery and Extortion
Cedric Cromwell, the elected chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, was arrested Friday and indicted on federal bribery and extortion charges related to the tribe's drawn-out endeavor to build a resort casino in Taunton.
Cromwell, 55, of Attleboro, and David DeQuattro, 54, of Warwick, Rhode Island were arrested and scheduled to be arraigned in federal court via video conference later today.
The Tribal Gaming Authority, led by Cromwell, allegedly contracted with an architecture firm owned by DeQuattro. Between mid-2014 and mid-2017, the firm allegedly provided Cromwell with payments and in-kind benefits valued at $57,549. In exchange, DeQuattro's firm was paid nearly $5 million under its contract with the tribal authority, the indictment states.
The alleged in-kind benefits included a used Bowflex Revolution home gym that DeQuattro and his firm bought for Cromwell and had delivered to his home, according to a media release from the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. It's alleged that Cromwell spent all of the money on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress.
Payments to Cromwell allegedly included $44,000 in checks written by DeQuattro to a consulting firm owned by a friend of Cromwell. Cromwell allegedly directed his friend to deposit the checks and buy treasurer’s checks payable to either Cromwell or a shell entity that Cromwell incorporated called One Nation Development. DeQuattro also wrote one $10,000 personal check directly to One Nation Development, according to federal prosecutors. The president of the architecture firm falsely characterized the reimbursements as payroll expenses, the indictment alleges.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been involved in a lengthy legal dispute over its land-in-trust status. The conflict has blocked its plans for its proposed First Light Casino. The tribe was federally recognized in 2007 and the Obama administration took the land into in 2016. The Trump administration has been challenging that designation.
Cromwell and DeQuattro were each indicted on two counts of accepting or paying bribes as an agent (or to an agent) of an Indian tribal government and one count of conspiring to commit bribery. Cromwell was also indicted on four counts of extortion under color of official right and one count of conspiring to commit extortion. The defendants were set to make initial appearances via videoconference this afternoon.
“Instead of working honestly on behalf of the Mashpee Wampanoags as their duly elected representative, Cedric Cromwell is accused of using his position as Chairman of the Tribe to enrich himself by extorting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaging in a conspiracy with David DeQuattro to commit bribery. These allegations are extremely troubling and indicate a disdain for the rule of law,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Both men’s alleged actions undercut the efforts of hard-working tribe members and betrayed their trust. Cases like this fuel our commitment to rooting out public corruption, and as our investigation continues, we urge anyone with information to contact us.”
U.S. Attorney Lelling and FBI Boston SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by Attleboro Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Wichers of Lelling’s Public Corruption & Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting the case.