Posted on: January 25, 2021, 12:06h.
Last updated on: January 25, 2021, 12:41h.
The former chairman of a Massachusetts Native American tribe is seeking to have federal bribery and extortion charges against him dismissed.
Cedric Cromwell led the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from 2009 until his ousting last November. He’s accused of accepting kickbacks in relation to the tribe’s planning of a $1 billion casino resort in Taunton.
A federal grand jury found sufficient evidence to move forward with charges that Cromwell illegally received nearly $60,000 in payments and benefits.
Prosecutors say Cromwell took bribes from David DeQuattro, an owner of an architecture firm in Providence, Rhode Island. In exchange, DeQuattro’s company Robinson, Green, Beretta Corporation received a $5 million design contract.
Cromwell says he did not commit the crimes he’s accused of. DeQuattro has also pleaded not guilty and was first to file a motion to dismiss with the US District Court of Massachusetts.
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The Department of Justice alleges that Cromwell received $44,000 worth of personal checks written by DeQuattro to an entity called CM International Consulting LLC. The limited liability company is controlled by a friend of Cromwell.
Prosecutors claim that friend then wrote checks totaling the same value to a shell entity Cromwell formed called One Nation Development. DeQuattro also wrote a $10,000 check directly to One Nation.
Federal authorities additionally say DeQuattro sent Cromwell a Bowflex Revolution home gym and paid for a birthday getaway weekend for the former tribal leader.
In the motion to dismiss, attorneys for DeQuattro argue that the federal government has failed to prove that the payments and gifts show a quid pro quo.
In a separate filing, attorneys for Cromwell “requests that the Court allow him to join Defendant David DeQuattro’s Motion to Dismiss.”
As Casino.org reported last week, the Mashpee Wampanoag’s ambitions to build a casino resort likely have a better chance of coming to realization under President Joe Biden’s administration.
At issue is whether the tribe’s 151 acres of land in Taunton qualifies to be placed into federal trust by the US Department of the Interior (DOI). The DOI under President Barack Obama said it did. Under President Donald Trump, Interior said it did not.
Biden has nominated Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to head the Interior Department. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Native American tribal member to sit on a presidential cabinet. She would also be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department.
Haaland has expressed support for allowing the Mashpee’s land in Taunton to be deemed sovereign territory.