Fumo ordered to pay $400,000 more in restitution

Vincent J. Fumo and fiancee Carolyn Zinni leave court for a break.
Vincent J. Fumo and fiancee Carolyn Zinni leave court for a break. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 22, 2014

In the last act of the long-running corruption case against former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, a federal judge on Tuesday ordered him to pay almost $400,000 in additional restitution.

Afterward, Fumo, 71, stood outside the federal courthouse and noted that the FBI investigation that led to his conviction began a decade ago.

"It's been 10 years, and today I think I know what my sentence is," the former Democratic power said.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Ronald L. Buckwalter resolved a financial issue that lingered after Fumo served his 61-month prison sentence.

A year ago, a federal appeals court said Buckwalter had imposed too light a financial penalty against Fumo and ordered him to redo that part of his sentence.

In court Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer urged Buckwalter to order Fumo to pay almost all of about $1.6 million owed one of his victims, a South Philadelphia community-improvement organization.

Previously, Buckwalter had told Fumo to pay half of that sum and Ruth Arnao, a former Fumo legislative aide and executive director of the nonprofit, to pay the other half.

On Tuesday, Buckwalter ordered Fumo to pay 75 percent and reduced Arnao's share to 25 percent.

At the hearing, Zauzmer said Fumo had directed the fraud against the nonprofit group, reaped precisely 96 percent of the benefits, and thus should shoulder almost all the restitution burden.

He said the purpose of restitution was "make the victim whole." Given Arnao's assets, he said, she would never fully reimburse the South Philadelphia organization, once known as Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods. Fumo could pay the full debt immediately, Zauzmer said.

Under a new name, with new leadership, and purged of its old board, the nonprofit is still active in the Passyunk Avenue business corridor, renting out storefronts and cleaning sidewalks.

Fumo's defense team portrayed him as on the brink of going broke, and said Arnao had played an active role in the fraud and should pay up, too.

Fumo, released from prison this year following his 2009 conviction, has already paid about $4 million in fines and restitution.

In a series of tense exchanges, Buckwalter, clearly unhappy at being reversed, challenged Zauzmer at every turn as the prosecutor portrayed Fumo as "the mastermind" behind his crime and Arnao as a mere helper.

"I couldn't believe the government would appeal this," Buckwalter said at one point. "I should have known better."

In 2009, a jury found Fumo guilty of defrauding the state Senate, a maritime museum, and Citizens' Alliance.

The same jury found Arnao guilty of participating in the rip-off of the nonprofit, and she served a year in prison.

Buckwalter, who presided over the trial, initially sentenced Fumo to 55 months in prison, stirring a public uproar that the sentence was too lenient.

Zauzmer appealed, forcing a resentencing. Buckwalter then added six months to the sentence.

In a separate appeal, Zauzmer also argued that Buckwalter had made mistakes in calculating the financial penalty imposed on Fumo.

In court Tuesday, Zauzmer was scathing in his criticism of Fumo. "What type of person does this?" the prosecutor asked.

He said Fumo had directed the wrongdoing, but then demanded, "My loyal aide over there, make her pay for it."

Defense lawyer Dennis J. Cogan, one of three attorneys for Fumo who spoke at Tuesday's hearing, said Arnao had been an active conspirator. He also said the government could go after the considerable wealth of her husband - businessman Mitchell Rubin, a former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission who is awaiting trial on unrelated state corruption charges.

Buckwalter agreed. "I think Ruth Arnao has the ability to pay," he said in court. "If the government ultimately wanted to, don't you think they could get the money?"

Zauzmer said Rubin played no role in defrauding Citizens' Alliance. And, he said, Rubin's assets were not held jointly with his wife and thus were out of reach.

According to Fumo's defense team, Fumo's net worth has fallen dramatically since 2009, when it was pegged at about $11 million. He has paid millions in fines and restitution since then, as well as big legal bills, leaving him with assets of about $3 million, according to a presentencing inquiry into his finances by federal authorities.

He is also fighting a move by the IRS to require him to pay almost $4 million in back taxes that it says he owes on items and services he garnered as part of his fraud. The federal liens filed as part of this have put Fumo into the red, the defense says.

Zauzmer scoffed at this.

In a legal filing Friday, he noted that Fumo claims to need to spend $1,000 a month on clothes, $1,500 a month on food, and $900 a month on maintenance and insurance for his boats.

Zauzmer also said Fumo had engaged in "extensive shenanigans in an effort to shield his assets."

He noted that Fumo, for nominal sums, had made his son, Vincent E., and his fiancee, Carolyn Zinni, sole owners or co-owners of several of his valuable properties.

According to Zauzmer, Fumo has told federal authorities that while he had added his son to the deeds of his mansion in Philadelphia and condos at the Shore, his intent was to limit the son's ownership to 1 percent.

Zauzmer also noted that in an e-mail to a former wife, Fumo wrote, "My goal is to become as judgment proof as possible. I want to 'own nothing but control everything.' "


cmccoy@phillynews.com

215-854-4821 @CraigRMcCoy

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