Cedric Cromwell, the disgraced former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag, must pay $250,000 in restitution to the Massachusetts-based tribe. Cromwell was sentenced to three years in prison in November for accepting kickbacks related to the tribe’s $1 billion First Light Casino project.
Also on the hook for the same amount is David DeQuattro, head of a Rhode Island architectural firm. He was convicted last May of paying Cromwell bribes in exchange for an agreement to protect his company’s $5 million consultancy contract for the casino project in Taunton.
DeQuattro was sentenced to a year’s probation in home confinement with electronic monitoring for his involvement in the scheme.
Mashpee the Victims
In a brief filed to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts last month, prosecutors argued that the tribe was a victim of the defendants’ crimes.
“Among other things, its reputation was severely damaged as a result of Mr. Cromwell’s indictment, conviction, and sentence for bribery in connection with the Tribe’s plans to build a resort and casino,” it read. “The Tribe had to spend considerable time and resources assuring its investors and development partners that it was not complicit in the … conspiracy.”
That injury has caused distrust in potential lenders for the project, impeding the Tribe’s ability to obtain financing for economic development,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors acknowledged that DeQuattro bore “less responsibility” than Cromwell for the tribe’s difficulties. But they requested the court hold them jointly and severally liable for restitution. That’s because DeQuattro has significant income and assets, whereas Cromwell does not. This increases the likelihood that the tribe gets paid.
Current Mashpee Chair Brian Weeden told The Cape Cod Times that no sum of money could make up for the damage Cromwell and DeQuattro had done.
“What Cedric and David did eroded the tribe’s trust in our elected officials,” he said.
New Dawn for Fist Light?
There have been reports that the Mashpee plan to resume the First Light project with the help of financial backer Genting, although the tribe has made no official statement to that effect.
The project was halted after a 2016 legal ruling prompted the Trump administration to reverse an Obama-era decision to take land in Taunton into trust for the tribe. This is the process whereby the federal government partially removes a parcel of land from the jurisdiction of a state to create a sovereign reservation, a prerequisite for tribal gaming.
The tribe sued the Interior Department, and in 2020 a federal judge ruled the department had incorrectly applied its own guidelines to the Mashpee case. The Biden administration later reaffirmed the Taunton land.
Despite uncertainly around the project, some Taunton residents have renewed the legal battle against the Mashpee.
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