By Philip Marcelo
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOSTON (AP) -A former leader of a Massachusetts Native American tribe was convicted Thursday of bribery and extortion charges related to the tribe’s long-planned casino project, federal prosecutors said.
But Cedric Cromwell, former leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag, was cleared by the federal jury in Boston of some charges, including one count of extortion and a count of bribery conspiracy, prosecutors said.
David DeQuattro, Cromwell’s co-defendant and the owner of an architecture firm in Providence, Rhode Island, was also similarly convicted of bribery but cleared of other charges, according to the office of Rachael Rollins, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
The two will be sentenced at a later date. Their lawyers didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.
The trial, which lasted more than two weeks, had been delayed for months by the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal prosecutors argued Cromwell, a 56-year-old Attleboro resident, used his position as chair of the federally recognized, Cape Cod-based tribe to extort tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaged in a conspiracy to commit bribery with DeQuattro.
They said DeQuattro provided Cromwell with payments and other benefits valued at nearly $60,000 in exchange for nearly $5 million in contracts. Prosecutors allege Cromwell then spent the payments on personal expenses.
Cromwell, who was removed as chair after his indictment in 2020, has denied seeking or accepting bribes. DeQuattro has maintained he was simply donating to Cromwell’s political campaign.
The tribe’s casino plan has faced years of legal setbacks but got a boost in December when President Joe Biden’s administration affirmed the tribe’s sovereign reservation.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which traces its ancestry to the Indigenous people the Pilgrims encountered four centuries ago, broke ground in 2016 on a $1 billion resort casino in a former industrial park in Taunton, a city south of Boston.
Dubbed First Light, the resort was to include a hotel and shopping, dining and entertainment options, including a water park.