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Former head of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe sentenced to three years in prison for bribery

Cedric Cromwell: “I will spend the rest of my life seeking redemption”

Former Wampanoag chairman Cedric Cromwell (in wheelchair) left the Moakley courthouse in Boston after being sentenced in federal court.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The former chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for soliciting a $10,000 bribe, gym equipment, and a weekend stay at an upscale hotel from a Rhode Island architectural firm that was overseeing the tribe’s plans for a $1 billion casino in Taunton.

As he sat in a wheelchair facing the judge, Cedric Cromwell, 57, who suffers from a variety of health ailments, asked “for some measure of mercy” and said he was deeply sorry for hurting the tribe and bringing shame to his family.

“I will spend the rest of my life seeking redemption,” said Cromwell, of Attleboro, who served as chairman of the tribe from 2009 until his removal after his indictment two years ago.


US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock said he agreed with tribe members, who told the court they had suffered oppression by the federal government for hundreds of years, only to be betrayed by two of their own leaders — Cromwell and his predecessor, who went to prison for embezzlement and other charges.

“We do a great disservice to the tribe if we do not recognize the loss they have received, partly at the hands of Mr. Cromwell,” Woodlock said. He also fined Cromwell $25,000 and said he’ll consider a request from the tribe for restitution.

However, the judge found that David DeQuattro, the architect convicted of a single bribery count, should not go to prison because he didn’t initiate the bribes and had been “overtaken with a desire to be a friend” to Cromwell.

DeQuattro, 56, of Warwick, R.I., was placed on probation for a year, to be served under home confinement, and fined $50,000.

In May, a federal jury in Boston convicted Cromwell of conspiracy to commit extortion, three extortion counts and two bribery counts for soliciting gifts and a $10,000 payment from DeQuattro on behalf of Robinson Green Beretta Corp., known as RGB Architects. At the time DeQuattro worked for the company, which he now owns.


The jury found DeQuattro guilty of bribery for paying for Cromwell’s three-night stay at the Seaport Hotel in Boston for his birthday in 2017, and $1,700 for a used Bowflex Revolution home gym.

Prosecutors alleged Cromwell extorted $54,000 in cash and benefits worth an additional $3,500 from RGB Architects — through DeQuattro — while the company was overseeing the tribe’s plans to build a casino in Taunton. At the time, Cromwell was also serving as president of the tribe’s five-member gaming authority, which paid RGB nearly $5 million under a consulting contract that could be terminated for cause with seven days’ notice or for convenience with a month’s notice.

The indictment alleged the payments were in exchange for “favorable action or inaction” on the contract by the Mashpee Wampanoag’s gaming authority.

The defense characterized the gifts as gratuities and argued there was no evidence that Cromwell did anything in exchange for them.

On Tuesday, Woodlock vacated the extortion convictions, ruling that the federal law applies to public officials, not tribal leaders subject to their own laws. He did not set a sentencing date for Cromwell and DeQuattro and said he’ll consider allowing them to remain free on bail pending appeal.

Assistant US Attorney Christine Wichers recommended a 6½-year prison term for Cromwell and 27 months for DeQuattro, arguing that both men were equally culpable for participating in a “pay to play” scheme.


“This was public corruption pure and simple,” Wichers said.

But Cromwell’s attorney, Timothy R. Flaherty, urged the judge to consider that “no man can be judged by the single worst episode or episodes of his life.”

He said Cromwell faces numerous health issues that will put him at risk of further decline if he’s sent to prison.

Attorney Martin G. Weinberg, who represents DeQuattro, described him as a well-respected military veteran and businessman who worked hard to become an architect and became the owner of RGB Architects two years ago.

“This is such an aberration in his life,” Weinberg told the judge.

DeQuattro told the judge he made a lot of good decisions in his life, but forming a friendship with Cromwell wasn’t one of them. He said he feared his company would fail if he went to prison at a time when it has over 100 projects underway.

In a letter, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence allowed by law for Cromwell, saying he had severely victimized the tribe for his own personal gain and caused it irreparable harm.

“For over 400 years, the Tribe has fought to preserve its culture, lands and protect its people from constant exploitation and oppression,” the tribe’s chairman, Brian M. 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.”


Shelley Murphy can be reached at Follow her @shelleymurph.