The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Friday, November 13, for his alleged role in a bribery scheme involving plans to build a resort and casino in Taunton.
Prosecutors unveiled a string of charges against the chairman, Cedric Cromwell, 55, of Attleboro, including one count of conspiring to commit bribery, one count of conspiring to commit extortion, two counts of accepting or paying bribes as an agent of an Indian tribal government and four counts of extortion under color of official right.
The indictment alleges Mr. Cromwell conspired with David DeQuattro, 54, of Warwick, Rhode Island, who owns an architecture firm that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Gaming Authority contracted with for casino plans. Mr. Cromwell leads the gaming authority.
“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,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, in a press release.
Mr. DeQuattro has been charged with two counts of accepting or paying bribes to an agent of an Indian tribal government and one count of conspiring to commit bribery.
The indictment alleges that between approximately July 26, 2014, and May 18, 2017, Mr. DeQuattro, through his architecture firm, provided Mr. Cromwell with payments and in-kind benefits valued at $57,549. The architecture firm, in exchange, was paid about $4,966,287 under its contract with the tribe's gaming authority, the indictment alleges.
Mr. DeQuattro wrote $44,000 in personal checks to CM International Consulting LLC, an entity owned by a friend of Mr. Cromwell's, the indictment alleges. That friend, at the direction of Mr. Cromwell, then deposited the checks and used the funds to buy treasurer's checks payable either to Mr. Cromwell or One Nation Development, a shell entity Mr. Cromwell had incorporated, the indictment alleges.
The friend was not named.
Mr. DeQuattro also allegedly wrote a $10,000 personal check directly to One Nation Development.
The indictment alleges Mr. Cromwell spent all the money on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress, and also received in-kind benefits in the form of a used Bowflex Revolution home gym that Mr. DeQuattro and the architecture company's president bought and had delivered to Mr. Cromwell's home.
The president of the architecture firm, who was not named, authorized and signed company checks to reimburse Mr. DeQuattro for his payments to Mr. Cromwell, falsely characterizing the reimbursements as payroll expenses, the indictment alleges.
The president of the architecture company and Mr. DeQuattro also allegedly agreed to pay for Mr. Cromwell to stay at a Boston hotel after Mr. Cromwell asked Mr. DeQuattro in a text to "get me a nice hotel room at the Four Seasons or a suite at the Seaport Hotel" for his birthday weekend and added "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 is a federal offense punishable with up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
Conspiring to commit bribery carries 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 unsupervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
"The charges allege that Mr. Cromwell violated the trust he owed the Mashpee Wampano[a]g Tribe by committing extortion, accepting bribes and otherwise abusing his position," said US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in a press release. "Many American Indians face a host of difficult financial and social issues. They require—and deserve—real leadership. But it appears that Cromwell's priority was not to serve his people, but to line his own pockets. We will continue to aggressively investigate public corruption, including by those who purport to serve our American Indian tribes."
Assistant US Attorney Christine Wichers of Mr. Lelling's Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting the case.
Mr. Cromwell and Mr. DeQuattro made initial appearances in court on Friday afternoon via videoconference.
Mr. Cromwell was first elected chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council in 2009. He was reelected in 2013 and 2017.