State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, one of the most powerful and controversial figures in Pennsylvania politics, was indicted Tuesday on federal charges he used a nonprofit group for personal and political gain and defrauded the state out of $1 million.
Many of the 139 charges stem from Fumo’s ties to a nonprofit agency in his South Philadelphia district.
Authorities had been investigating the Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods for more than four years. The group was started by Fumo aides in 1991 to serve the neighborhood where he grew up.
Prosecutors said he used state employees and the nonprofit group to fulfill his every whim — including cleaning his 33-room mansion, spying on his ex-wife, and fighting a dune project that might block his view of the ocean.
The charges included fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and tax offenses.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan said Fumo, 63, spent about $1 million in state money and another $1 million from the nonprofit. Prosecutors said Fumo also engaged in a systematic coverup through the destruction of e-mails and other electronic records.
The Philadelphia Democrat beat two previous indictments. In 1973, authorities dropped vote-fraud charges against Fumo, while a 1980 conviction for his role in an alleged ghost-worker scheme was eventually overturned.
Temporarily stepped down
Fumo, anticipating the indictment on Monday, temporarily stepped down as the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee but remains in the Senate.
“I know in my heart that I have not done anything illegal,” said Fumo, a lawyer and banker said.
In Pennsylvania, Fumo’s name has come to be synonymous with power during his nearly three decades in the Legislature.
He quickly maneuvered into leadership posts after arriving in 1978, and takes credit for producing more than $8 billion in economic benefits in the Philadelphia region. Federal investigators said he controlled more than 90 state employees.
“If an extraterrestrial came down here, it wouldn’t say, ‘Take me to your leader.’ It would say, ‘Where’s Vince?’ ” former state Rep. Gerard Kosinski once said.