Fumo's son in legal fight with restaurateur

Posted: March 31, 2012

The son of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo has filed suit against a South Jersey restaurateur for allegedly breaching the terms of deals in which Fumo paid $205,000 for shares of two restaurants, one of them at Philadelphia International Airport.

In complaints filed Thursday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Vincent E. Fumo II said he had written a personal check for $150,000 to buy a 30 percent share in a new Philly cheesesteak venture, completed in 2009 in the connector between the airport's B and C Terminals.

Andrew A. Cosenza, the Mount Laurel-based businessman who was developing the restaurant, had promised "a guaranteed return of $50,000 a year for every year that the restaurant was in business," Fumo's lawsuit contended.

But in the three years since he turned over the money - a transaction that took place inside Cosenza's car parked near Rittenhouse Square - Fumo reported he had received just $70,328, less than half the amount promised, with none of the promised access to the restaurant's books and records. The most recent payment, for $12,500, was last June, according to the lawsuit.

In a separate complaint, also filed by attorney Dion G. Rassias of the Beasley law firm, Fumo said he invested $55,000 in March 2011 for a 50 percent share of a Bassett's BBQ restaurant in Mount Laurel. The suit says Fumo has received no payments and no financial reports since making the investment.

Calls to Cosenza's office were referred to attorney Joseph P. Grimes, who said both restaurants involved in Fumo's lawsuits are operating but declined any comment on Fumo's allegations.

When Fumo's father was a powerful state senator before his indictment and conviction in a massive federal corruption case, Cosenza was a loyal supporter. He donated $35,000 to Fumo's Senate campaigns, raised money for Fumo's legal-defense fund, pleaded for leniency in a letter to Fumo's trial judge, and was at the politician's side when Fumo reported to the Ashland federal prison camp in Kentucky.

But their relationship apparently began to deteriorate after Cosenza took over the senator's political action committee.

In an e-mail from prison, made public in a government filing tied to a resentencing proceeding, the former senator complained that Cosenza had not followed Fumo's instructions in managing the PAC.

"I told you in specific and uncertain terms when you took over FFS [Fumo for Senate] NOT to spend 1 [expletive] dime on anything except MAYBE a contribution to Larry [state Sen. Larry Farnese] +/or Frankie [City Councilman Frank DiCicco] if the[y] wanted +/or needed it," Fumo's e-mail said. "You blew through $100,000 in just one year and a lot of it [was] questionable and probably unexplainable."

The airport cheesesteak venture cited in the lawsuit by Fumo's son operates under the name Philly Steak and Gyro.

It is one of five airport concessions managed by Cosenza, according to Anna DiGrigorio, director of marketing for Marketplace Philadelphia Management, a private firm hired by the airport to handle leasing, construction and other concession-related functions.

Two of the Cosenza businesses are Philly Steak and Gyros, and three are Bassett's Turkey stands, DiGrigorio said.

The owners of each franchise are identified in leases between the concessionaires and Marketplace, DiGrigorio said. She added, "We are unaware of any dealings between the two [Fumo and Cosenza] at the airport."

The city's airport concessions figured in a major corruption scandal in John F. Street's mayoral administration, which allowed the late attorney Ronald A. White, a longtime Street fund-raiser, to have wide sway in steering airport business to relatives and friends.

White's wife, a psychiatrist, was brought into contracts to run six airport bars and six newsstands, and White's longtime girlfriend, Janice Knight, got a share of the proceeds from an airport bar and vending machines.

Other politically connected partners brought into airport concessions included Laura Foreman, the widow of former state Sen. Henry J. "Buddy" Cianfrani, and the wife and two daughters of former state Sen. Frank Salvatore.

Airport spokesman Mark Pesce said the airport's contract with Marketplace calls for Marketplace to recruit and recommend concessionaires, with the airport having "review and approval rights".

Pesce said he would have to do further research to determine which airport officials conduct that review, and whether concessionaires are required to list everyone with financial interests in their businesses.


Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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