The owner of a Rhode Island architecture firm and a Massachusetts construction firm face bribery allegations in separate, unrelated cases involving tens of thousands of dollars in payments to win work on a defunct $1-billion casino project on tribal land in Taunton. Mass. and to have worker violations dropped in New Hampshire.
David DeQuattro, owner of a Rhode Island architecture firm, was arraigned on Nov. 13 in federal court on two counts of accepting or paying bribes. Also charged was Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoaog Tribe.
Both were also charged with one count of conspiring to commit bribery, according to a press release issued on Nov. 13 by U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling.
As chairman of the tribe and its gaming authority, Cromwell hired DeQuattro’s Providence-based firm in 2014 to design the tribe’s proposed casino in Taunton, which was never completed after a series of adverse legal and regulatory rulings.
DeQuattro did not respond to ENR's request for comment, Cromwell's attorney, Timothy Flaherty, says his client denies the allegations. "Cedric Cromwell has served the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe honorably for more than a decade," Flaherty wrote in an emailed statement. "He is a man of principle, he is a man of faith, and he is a transformational leader."
DeQuattro allegedly provided Cromwell, who oversaw the casino project, with $57,549 in direct and in-kind benefits over a nearly three-year period between 2014 and 2017
In exchange, the tribe’s gaming authority paid the architectural firm nearly $5 million under its contract for design work on the casino.
The bulk of the money involved payments, with DeQuattro writing $44,000 in personal checks to CM International Consulting, which was owned by a friend of Cromwell’s.
DeQuattro also allegedly made in-kind payments, such as a home gym delivered to Cromwell’s home and agreeing to pick up the tab for the tribal chairman to spend time in Boston at a luxury hotel to celebrate his birthday with a “special guest,” prosecutors contend, citing a text message.
Work on the casino ground to a halt in 2016 after opponents successfully challenged the project in federal court, with officials at the U.S. Dept. of the Interior later withdrawing key approvals.
The charges for either paying a bribe to an Indian tribal government agent, or accepting one as an agent, are stiff, with federal guidelines calling for up to ten years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, federal prosecutors said.
"Cedric Cromwell is accused of using his position as Chairman of the Tribe to enrich himself by extorting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and engaging in a conspiracy with David DeQuattro to commit bribery,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division, in a statement.
The casino charges came on the heels of a separate bribery allegation involving an executive of a Massachusetts construction company building two apartment projects in New Hampshire and a state labor inspector.
Rogelio Perez, a vice president at Burlington-based RPCL Construction, allegedly offered a $28,000 bribe to the state inspector to drop his investigation into labor law violations on projects in Londonderry and in Salem; the latter involved redevelopment of the Rockingham Park racetrack for housing and commercial uses.
The violations involved workers being misclassified as independent contractors, with the New Hampshire Dept. of Labor recently levying $77,000 in fines against the firm. The firm did not respond to ENR's request for comment.
State officials said the firm declined to provide documentation to identify the workers, their pay rates and employment status.
“It’s running rampant,” said Joseph Donahue, New Hampshire business representative of a carpenters' union local, Interior Systems Union 352, referring to contractors that falsely label full-time workers as independent contractors.