A federal grand jury has reportedly ordered the embattled Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to hand over its financial records as part of a grand jury investigation being conducted by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
According to a Tuesday report from The Republican newspaper, the June 5 request appeared about a year after the same body issued subpoenas to the tribe’s treasurer, Gordon Harris, along with his predecessor, Robert Hendricks, although it remains unclear whether the two actions are related.
The Republican reported that the petition was signed by Massachusetts federal prosecutors Andrew Lelling and Christine Wichers and comes as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is embroiled in a legal battle to save its reservation and the associated plan to build its envisioned $1 billion First Light Resort and Casino.
Reportedly read a section of the official federal petition…
“Pursuant to an official investigation conducted by a federal grand jury in the District of Massachusetts of suspected violations of federal criminal law, you are directed to furnish to the grand jury the documents described in the attached subpoena.”
The newspaper reported that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe won federal recognition in 2007 following a 32-year struggle and had originally planned to build its First Light Resort and Casino in partnership with Asian casino giant Genting Malaysia Berhad on a 321-acre parcel of land located near the small Massachusetts city of Taunton. However, this scheme purportedly ran into difficulties after a group of local residents initiated a legal action that questioned the lawfulness of a 2015 land-into-trust decision from the United States Department of the Interior that had given the tribe the initial right to construct the gambling-friendly development.
The 2,600-member tribe’s dream of bringing an integrated casino resort to southeastern Massachusetts reportedly suffered a further setback in March after the United States Department of the Interior unilaterally ‘disestablished’ its reservation, although the United States District Court for the District of Columbia later referred this matter back to the federal agency after describing its decision as ‘arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law’.
The Republican reported that Cedric Cromwell, Chairman for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, has moreover recently come under fire for the way he has been handling the group’s finances. The newspaper alleged that revelations the federally-recognized tribe was in the red to the tune of over $500 million, the majority of which is owed to Genting Malaysia Berhad, prompted many of its members to unsuccessfully attempt to hold an election in September for the expressed purpose of ousting Cromwell and his compatriots.