Former Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Fumo convicted of fraud, corruption

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Former Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent J. Fumo was found guilty of 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and tax violations on Monday.

Fumo, a Democrat who previously represented South Philadelphia, was found guilty of defrauding the Senate, a nonprofit organization and a museum out of more than US$3.5 million.

Fumo also ordered state employees to do political tasks and personal errands, and destroyed e-mail evidence, according to the convictions handed down by a U.S. District Court jury Monday.

More than 100 witnesses participated in the five-month trial, which featured about 1,500 exhibits. It took the jury 13 minutes to read all the guilty counts for Fumo, who served on the Pennsylvania State Senate for more than 30 years.

“Hard work has never, never balanced such abuses," U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid told The Bulletin. "It was a resounding verdict and an emphatic rejection of the kind of defenses that were raised."

The Pennsylvania State Capitol.
Image: Michael180.

Prosecutors plan to seek a prison sentence of at least 10 years. Dennis Cogan, the lead defense attorney for Fumo, said he might ask for a new trial, but did not specify the possible grounds for such a request. A federal judge set bail for Fumo at $2 million and denied a motion by prosecutors to revoke Fumo's bail, despite a prosecutor's claim that Fumo had a "strong incentive to flee". Ruth Arnao, a staffer for Fumo, was also found guilty of 45 counts of similar charges and received $500,000 bail.

Before the verdict was read, Fumo's defense attorneys accused a juror of putting trial posts on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, which led to speculation that a mistrial could be declared. Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter denied the request to dismiss the juror after speaking with the juror for about an hour on March 16.

Among the charges were that Fumo helped defraud Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, a community group he helped found, by using $1.4 million of its money to buy goods, conduct polls and file a lawsuit against a Republican foe.

Prosecutors also said Fumo arranged for heated sidewalks to be installed at his personal mansion, ordered political operatives to spy on his ex-girlfriend, and took overnight cruises on luxury yachts owned by Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, where Fumo sat on the board.

News of Fumo's conviction quickly swept through the Pennsylvania State Capitol, where longtime Democratic colleagues said they were saddened by the verdict, but not surprising due to the large amount of evidence that surfaced during the trial.