Former tribal leader gets 3 years in casino bribery case

BOSTON (AP) — The former leader of a Massachusetts Native American tribe convicted of accepting bribes including exercise equipment and a weekend stay at a luxury hotel from an architectural firm working with the tribe to build a casino has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Cedric Cromwell, former chair of the Mashpee Wampanoags, was also sentenced in U.S. District Court in Boston on Tuesday to a year of probation and was fined $25,000, according to prosecutors.

David DeQuattro, 56, the owner of the Rhode Island architecture and design firm, was sentenced to a year of probation under home confinement and fined $50,000.

The Cape Cod-based tribe, which currently has about 2,600 enrolled citizens, in an impact statement signed by current Chair Brian Weeden said it has been “irreparably harmed” by Cromwell’s conduct.

“For over 400 years, the Tribe has fought to preserve its culture, lands and protect its people from constant exploitation and oppression,” Weeden wrote. “And yet, we are now facing the ultimate betrayal by one elected and entrusted to lead and act in the best interests of our Tribal Nation and future seven generations.”

He noted that while Cromwell was enriching himself, tribal members “struggled under the pressures of increased homelessness, unemployment, alcohol and opioid addiction, and other traumas.”

Cromwell, 57, apologized in court.

“I will spend the rest of my life seeking redemption,” he said, The Boston Globe reported.

DeQuatto’s attorney called his client’s actions an “aberration.”

Cromwell, who also was the president of the tribe’s five-member gaming authority, received $10,000 from DeQuattro in November 2015 that was deposited into an account for a company called One Nation Development LLC, which Cromwell founded to help Native tribes with economic development, prosecutors said.

But One Nation Development had no employees and Cromwell spent the money on personal expenses, prosecutors said.

He asked for, and received from DeQuattro and his business partner, a $1,700 home gym in August 2016, prosecutors said.

Cromwell also asked DeQuattro to pay for a three-night stay at a luxury Boston hotel in May 2017 so he could celebrate his birthday with someone he described as a “special guest.” The stay cost $1,800, prosecutors said.

Cromwell was convicted in May of bribery and extortion charges. DeQuattro was convicted of a bribery charge. Cromwell still faces multiple counts of filing a false tax return.

Meanhwile, plans for the proposed $1 billion casino in Taunton remain on hold.

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