Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tribes In The Media: Feds Charge Former Mashpee Chairman With Embezzlement

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Boston Globe article concerning embezzlement and other charges brought against the former Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman Glenn Marshall by federal authorities.

Former tribal leader faces charges
Embezzlement, illegal contributions alleged
By Sean P. Murphy and Andrea Estes
The Boston Globe
December 16, 2008

Federal authorities charged former Mashpee Wampanoag tribal chairman Glenn A. Marshall yesterday with steering tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to state and federal politicians, and embezzling $380,000 in tribal money that he spent on groceries, trips, and jewelry.

Officials said in court documents that Marshall - who successfully led the fight for federal recognition of the tribe only to resign amid controversy last year - has agreed to plead guilty to the charges. He is expected to cooperate in an ongoing investigation that stretches from Washington to the tiny tribe's headquarters on Cape Cod, authorities said.

The charges deepen the sense of turmoil that has swirled around the tribe as it wages a political fight for a casino. Although they have won federal recognition, the Mashpee Wampanoag are still trying to get land in Middleborough placed in a federal trust so they can build their $1 billion resort.

Officials in Middleborough worried last night that Marshall's plea agreement might impact the deal they hammered out with the tribe to build a casino on 500 acres off Precinct Street.

Selectmen chairman Adam Bond, who is an attorney, said Marshall's illicit activity could represent a breach of the contract.

Board members planned to call an emergency meeting this week to discuss the situation with Dennis Whittlesey, the Washington attorney who helped negotiate the multimillion-dollar host agreement.

"This is a significant development," Bond said. "Whether it will ultimately be significant, I don't know."

The charges outlined in court documents portray Marshall as converting a fund intended to promote the tribe's traditional fishing rights into a political and personal slush fund. Called the Fisherman's Association account, the fund was stocked by outside investors in the tribe's casino plans with $4 million between 2003 and last year.

In addition to paying a host of consultants, lawyers, and lobbyists working on the casino plan with the money, Marshall is accused of tapping the fund to steer $60,000 in illegal campaign contributions to members of Congress and state lawmakers. He used a series of family members and tribal officials to act as straw contributors to get around restrictions that prohibit corporations or tribes from making campaign contributions, according to documents filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston.

The purpose of the illegal political donations was to "to curry favor" and win backing for the tribe's quest for federal recognition, authorities alleged.

Marshall also spent lavishly from the fund on himself, according to investigators, blowing through hundreds of thousand of dollars from the Fisherman's Association account for "groceries, vacation trips, tuition for his daughter, restaurant tabs, home repairs, home mortgage payments, and jewelry."

Marshall's lawyer, Robert Craven, acknowledged the truth of the government's case in an interview, confirming that Marshall plans to plead guilty.Continued...

"Glenn didn't dream up the scheme himself," Craven said. "He was getting bad advice."

The 59-year-old Marshall, a tall man with a ready grin and a distinctive gray ponytail, became a well-known figure on Beacon Hill and in news broadcasts advocating for his tribe. Marshall, who began as tribal chairman in 2000, resigned in August 2007 after acknowledging a 1981 rape conviction and lying about his military record. Now, following his expected guilty plea, he faces up to 41 months in prison, his lawyer said.

"He made a life decision to get this done and to protect his family and go on," Craven said.

A spokeswoman for the tribe, Gayle Andrews, declined to be interviewed. She released a statement saying that while the tribal government was saddened by the news, it "will continue to work on behalf of its 1,600 members for benefits, including health, education, and other remunerations granted federally recognized tribes."

The charges against Marshall were brought by US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan after an investigation that included the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Besides campaign finance violations and wire fraud, Marshall also agreed to plead guilty to filing false tax returns and fraudulently receiving $10,000 a year in Social Security disability benefits, according to the documents. No date has been set for Marshall to enter his guilty plea. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for Sullivan, declined comment.

Governor Deval Patrick, who has so far rebuffed a request from the tribe to negotiate a casino proposal with the state but has expressed interest in an Indian casino, said the state would continue its relationship with the Wampanoag.

"We've got a very, I think, positive and transparent relationship with the tribe," he said. "We've been very candid with them, and they with us, about what the constraints are, from our perspective, in what their objectives are. And we're going to continue to work with them whomever the leadership is."

The criminal information filed in court yesterday describes a key political adviser to Marshall as "Political Consultant A," who was paid $20,000 a month to "oversee the tribe's lobbying and public relations activities." Political Consultant A "recommended on numerous occasions to Marshall which state and federal legislators should receive campaign contributions," the document says.

While the political consultant is not named, the documents indicate he was hired by the tribe in 2002. Lobbying records filed with Congress show that Stephen J. Graham of Boston was the only lobbyist newly hired in 2002. Graham did not return a phone call yesterday. Graham, 55, a Dorchester native, worked for many years as an advance man for Hillary Clinton.

It was the political consultant who arranged for Marshall to meet and eventually hire lobbyist Jack A. Abramoff, at $12,000 a month. Abramoff, who was later accused of charging various tribes exorbitant fees, admitted to conspiracy, influence-peddling, and other charges in January and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

At a meeting in 2003, Abramoff told Marshall and the political consultant "that in order to advance its recognition effort, the tribe needed to make significant political contributions to certain members of Congress," according to the document outlining the case against Marshall.

Marshall became tribal chairman in 2000, shortly after Herbert Strather, a Detroit-based businessman who helped develop a casino there, become involved with the Mashpee Wampanoag.

Strather and other Michigan investors formed a close bond with Marshall, at first agreeing to fund the tribal council's expenses at $10,000 a month and later upping it to $100,000 a month. In addition, the investors agreed to pay the cost of lobbyists, lawyers, and others involved in the recognition bid.

When Marshall's leadership was challenged in 2005, Strather wrote to tribal members urging his reelection. Strather, however, sold his interest last year, when Marshall struck a deal with the developers of Connecticut's Mohegan Sun resort, Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman. That deal would give the investors 6.5 percent of the gross revenue of a casino, hotel, and convention business, according to the court documents. Currently, Mohegan Sun is grossing about $1.3 billion annually.

The contributions Marshall orchestrated included payments to the campaigns of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Congressman William Delahunt, and then-Congressman Richard Pombo of California, who played a key role in Congress on Indian affairs, as well as to a political action committee controlled by Pombo.

Kennedy's office said yesterday that it had already donated $2,900 from Marshall to the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness.

Delahunt, in a statement, said he would review the findings and would donate questionable contributions to charity. Pombo, a Republican who lost his reelection bid in 2006, did not return a telephone call.

On the state level, among those who received campaign contributions were former attorney general Thomas Reilly ($1,500), Senate President Therese Murray ($1,500), House Ways and Means Committee chairman Robert Deleo ($1,000), House majority leader John Rogers ($900), and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray ($250).