The chair of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is accused of extorting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes with the owner of an architecture firm in connection with a casino and resort project in Taunton, authorities announced Friday.
Cedric Cromwell, chair of the tribe, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over claims he used his position to enrich himself and engaged in a bribery conspiracy with David DeQuattro, a Warwick, Rhode Island resident, the FBI said.
Cromwell, a 55-year-old Attleboro resident, and DeQuattro were each indicted on two counts of accepting or paying bribes as an agent of an Indian tribal government and one count of conspiring to commit bribery, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office said in a statement.
The tribe chair was also indicted on four counts of extortion under color of official right and one count of conspiring to commit extortion, the statement said.
“The charges allege that Mr. Cromwell violated the trust he owed the Mashpee Wampanog Tribe by committing extortion, accepting bribes and otherwise abusing his position,” Lelling said. “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.”
According to the indictment against the two men, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Gaming Authority, led by Cromwell, contracted DeQuattro’s architecture-and-design company as part of its effort to build a resort and casino in Taunton.
From July 2014 to May 2017, DeQuattro is accused of providing Cromwell with a stream of payments and in-kind benefits valued at $57,549 in exchange for the architecture firm being paid nearly $5 million under its contract, Lelling’s office said.
The payments to Cromwell, the U.S. attorney claimed, included $44,000 in personal checks written by DeQuattro to CM International Consulting LLC, an entity owned by one of the tribe chair’s friends.
The tribe chair is accused of directing his friend to deposit DeQuattro’s checks and use the funds to buy treasurer’s checks payable to either Cromwell or a shell entity he had incorporated called One Nation Development, authorities said.
Lelling’s office alleged DeQuattro also wrote a $10,000 personal check directly to One Nation Development.
The indictment claimed Cromwell spent all the money he funneled on personal expenses, including payments to his mistress.
The president of DeQuattro’s architecture firm is accused of authorizing and signing company checks that reimbursed the DeQuattro for his payments to Cromwell, falsely characterizing the reimbursements as payroll expenses to conceal what they actually were, according to the U.S. attorney.
The in-kind benefits allegedly included a used Bowflex Revolution home gym DeQuattro and the architecture company president bought for Cromwell and had delivered to his home, the prosecutor said.
Authorities claimed DeQuattro and the architecture company president also agreed to pay for Cromwell’s weekend stay at a Boston hotel after the tribe chair texted he wanted DeQuattro to get him “a nice hotel room at the Four Seasons or a suite at the Seaport Hotel” for his birthday weekend, adding, “I am going to have a special guest with me.”
“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,” he added.
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