The jury in former state Sen. Vince Fumo's federal corruption trial yesterday heard about forged signatures on documents related to a Fumo-created nonprofit and Fumo's free use of a museum's luxury yachts.
Two former captains who skippered luxury yachts owned by the Independence Seaport Museum testified that they didn't see Fumo conduct any business for the museum during cruises he took with friends, including co-defendant Ruth Arnao, from Martha's Vineyard every August.
The government says Fumo, a board member of the museum, bilked the museum of more than $100,000 from 1996 to 2003 by using its yachts for free and for his personal benefit.
The museum's ethics policy said board members could use museum property only for development purposes but permitted personal use if it is on terms available to a member of the public or is expressly approved by the museum president.
Jeffrey O'Brien, captain of one of the yachts, the Principia, was asked by prosecutor Bob Zauzmer if he thought a trip from Aug. 7-10, 1999, was a pleasure cruise.
"I believe so," O'Brien replied, adding that he "didn't see any groups coming on board to entertain" when the yacht was docked or any "sales pitches" being made.
John Bret Todd, a captain on a second luxury yacht owned by the museum, the Enticer, testified that Fumo and his friends were aboard for a week in August 2003, which Todd identified as a trip for pleasure.
On cross examination, Fumo lawyer Stephen Lacheen sought to elicit testimony that Fumo could have raised money without directly soliciting it on the yacht.
A longtime executive assistant at the museum, Carol Burkert, said she was not aware of any board members who used museum yachts more than Fumo.
Burkert was quizzed about a Sept. 12, 2001, letter from then-museum president John S. Carter to Fumo that purported to bill Fumo for the cost of chartering a private yacht, the Sweet Distraction, which cost $13,375 for a three-day cruise in August for himself and several friends.
The senator had to use a private yacht because Enticer was in the shop for repairs and Principia had been sold.
The feds say the museum fronted the cost and Fumo did not pay them back.
Burkert, who handled Carter's correspondence, testified she did not type the letter.
The defense suggested that Carter, who is serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison for defrauding the museum of $1.5 million in an unrelated case, was trying to cover his behind.
Fumo later reimbursed the museum for the cost of the cruise, after news reports that the feds had begun investigating Fumo's free use of the yachts.
Earlier yesterday, the jury heard from a former board member of Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods - a nonprofit created by Fumo to provide city services in his Senate district - who testified that he refused to sign a series of spending resolutions at the board's December 2003 meeting because the documents didn't include attached lists of expenditures.
Albert Mezzaroba testified that he resigned from the board shortly thereafter to lead the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority.
When Citizens Alliance's board met again in January 2004, the spending resolutions showed what apparently was Mezzaroba's forged signature.
Prosecutors showed Mezzaroba all the resolutions and he testified he didn't recognize the signatures as his own. It's unclear who signed his name on the documents.
Prosecutors yesterday showed a sample of Mezzaroba's signature, which was starkly different from the signatures on the Citizens Alliance resolutions.
On cross examination, Mezzaroba said he would have signed the resolutions if Arnao, a former Fumo aide who also was working at Citizens Alliance, had asked him to because he "trusted" her. *