Ex-tribal leader sentenced for fraud, embezzlement
BOSTON — The former leader of a Massachusetts tribe traced back to the country’s first Thanksgiving was sentenced Thursday to nearly three-and-a-half years in prison for embezzling tribal funds and violating campaign laws while working with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Glenn Marshall, who once chaired the Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, was sentenced to the 41 months recommended by prosecutors after Marshall pleaded guilty three months ago to several charges.
In imposing the sentence, the judge rejected claims by Marshall’s lawyer that he was merely a “pawn” in the hands of Washington lobbyists who offered to help the 1,600-member tribe win federal recognition.
“I think the defendant, Mr. Marshall, was motivated to do good things for the tribe, but he, too, was ultimately corrupted,” U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel said.
The judge also ordered Marshall to pay restitution of $383,000 to the tribal council and $84,600 to the Social Security Administration for collecting fraudulent disability payments.
Ancestors of the Wampanoag attended what is historically considered the first Thanksgiving. Marshall, 59, successfully led the push for the tribe to gain federal recognition as part of a plan to build a casino. He stepped down in 2007 after it became public that he was a convicted rapist and had lied about his military past.
In February, Marshall pleaded guilty to five charges, including making $60,000 in illegal campaign contributions to members of Congress, embezzling $383,000 in tribal funds, fraudulently receiving nearly $85,000 in Social Security disability benefits and filing false tax returns.
Thursday, he told the judge he was happy he was able to help some members of the tribe and to gain federal recognition, and said he didn’t understand the ins and outs of campaign finance laws. He then offered an apology.
“I know that what I did was wrong. I apologize to my people, to my family, to my friends and the court,” he said.
In a statement after the sentencing, tribe chairman Cedric Cromwell said the group would move forward.
“The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been deeply saddened by the actions of Glenn Marshall,” Cromwell said. “However, the Tribal government and the people of our sovereign nation are committed to moving forward with transparency and integrity towards all of our Tribe members to ensure that we never again experience this type of betrayal.”
According to prosecutors, Marshall used a defunct account intended to promote the tribe’s traditional fishing rights into a fund he used to make political contributions and pay personal expenses. Prosecutors said he used members of his family and tribal council as “straw contributors.” He then reimbursed himself and them with money from an account funded by a company hoping for a stake in any casino the tribe might build, they said.
Federal law prohibits corporations, including a tribal council, from making contributions to federal campaigns.
Prosecutors said Marshall also misused tribal money for personal expenses, including groceries, vacations, tuition for his daughter, restaurant tabs, home repairs and jewelry.
Marshall is to begin serving his sentence June 8.
One-time lobbyist Abramoff, involved in an influence-peddling scandal, is in prison for defrauding his clients and bribing public officials.
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