Monday, December 15, 2008

Ex-Tribal Head in Mass. To Plead Guilty to Fraud -

BOSTON (AP) -- The former chairman of a Massachusetts tribe agreed to plead guilty to violating campaign finance laws while working with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the U.S. attorney's office said Monday.

Glenn Marshall, 59, of Mashpee, agreed to plead guilty to five counts including making illegal campaign contributions to members of Congress, embezzling tribal funds, filing false tax returns and fraudulently receiving Social Security disability benefits.

He is former chairman of the Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, members of which attended what is historically considered the first Thanksgiving. It sought and received federal recognition in 2007 and had been buying land and pushing plans to build a casino.

Among other charges, investigators alleged Marshall used individuals including members of his family and council members as ''straw contributors'' to make political contributions. They said 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.

Federal law prohibits corporations, including the tribal council, from making contributions to federal campaigns.

He also was accused of misusing $380,000 for personal expenses including groceries, vacations, tuition for his daughter, restaurant tabs, home repairs and jewelry.

Marshall stepped down in 2007, after it became public that he was a convicted rapist and had lied about his military past.

A call to Marshall's lawyer, Robert Craven, was not immediately returned Monday. Tribal Council spokeswoman Gayle Andrews said the tribe was ''deeply saddened'' by the news.

''For the past year and a half, the Tribal leadership has worked successfully to get the government up and running and will continue to work on behalf of its 1,600 members for benefits including health, education and other renumerations granted federally recognized tribes,'' Andrews said in a written statement.

Investigators said a Michigan company called AtMashpee LLC agreed in 1999 to underwrite the tribe's efforts at federal recognition and provided millions of dollars for operating and lobbying expenses. In return, the company hoped for a stake in any future casino.

AtMashpee also helped cover legal costs, including a lawsuit the tribe filed against the Department of the Interior to pressure it to act on the tribe's petition.

In 2003, Marshall turned to Abramoff, who allegedly told them the tribe needed to make big political contributions to certain members of Congress.

A political consultant and others hired by the tribe said they preferred to be paid directly by the tribal council rather than AtMashpee. To make the payments, Marshall allegedly arranged to have AtMashpee deposit money into the account of the Mashpee Fisherman's Association, a defunct corporation in which Marshall and another tribal officer were signatories.

Investigators said that between 2003 and 2007, AtMashpee paid about $4 million into the account and that Marshall failed to report the funds on the tribal council's federal tax returns.

Investigators said that the tribe hired lobbyists who consulted with Abramoff's team and suggested which state and federal officials should receive contributions -- and that Marshall used the Fisherman's Association's fund to make the donations.

Investigators said Marshall asked the ''straw contributors'' to make contributions and then promised to reimburse them. Between 2003 and 2007, Marshall reimbursed straw contributors a total of nearly $50,000 in political donations using the fund, investigators said.

Marshall faces 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for four of the charges and a 20-year prison sentence and a $1 million fine for the wire fraud charge.