An ex-butler for former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo testified yesterday that he thought the nonprofit formed to help revitalize South Philadelphia was actually Fumo's company.
"He seemed in charge of it," said Matthew Fonseca, who served as Fumo's butler from February 2004 to February 2005 and is now a professional polo player. "He seemed to be the boss."
Fonseca said that he saw workers from Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods arrive at Fumo's Spring Garden mansion and haul away trash, shovel snow, power-wash a patio, and even put up Christmas lights.
Testifying for the prosecution in Fumo's federal corruption trial, Fonseca offered an inside view of life with the former Democratic powerbroker, describing a year of service in which he traveled with Fumo to homes in Florida, the Jersey Shore, and a farm near Harrisburg.
He described Fumo's shopping habits, his penchant for tools and Oreck vacuums, and said it wasn't always easy working for Fumo.
"Was he demanding?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer.
"Very demanding," replied Fonseca. If Fumo didn't like something, "he'd let you know."
Prosecutors called Fonseca as they continued efforts to show that Fumo and his codefendant, Ruth Arnao, the former head of Citizens' Alliance, defrauded the nonprofit by using it to pay for about $1.4 million in personal items, including power tools and luxury items among others.
Going through a list of many of the items allegedly paid for by Citizens' Alliance, Fonseca testified that he saw Fumo using them, or saw them at one of Fumo's residences.
He said he saw Fumo drive a silver minivan leased by a Citizens' Alliance subsidiary and observed a John Deere tractor, a lawn tractor, a Bobcat excavator, and an F150 truck - all allegedly paid for by Citizens' Alliance - at Fumo's farm near Harrisburg.
Fonseca also touched on the next part of the sprawling indictment - the allegation that Fumo defrauded a second nonprofit, the Independence Seaport Museum, by getting free trips on yachts.
Fonseca testified that he met Fumo on the Enticer, one of the yachts owned by the museum, during the summer of 2004 when he was working as a chef on the vessel. Fumo, Arnao and others were guests.
At the end of the trip, he said, Arnao asked him if he'd like to work for Fumo, and he said he soon started as a $2,200-a-month butler, living at the mansion on Green Street.
Fonseca said he became familiar with Fumo's lifestyle and shopping habits and how he liked to have identical items at each home.
"Everything has to be the same," he said, "from certain types of soap to power tools to towels."
He said that he and two drivers shared the duty of transporting Fumo's youngest daughter, and that one of Fumo's drivers would pick up the dry cleaning each week at the home of Fumo's former lawyer, Richard A. Sprague.
He said that Fumo kept an Oreck vacuum on every floor of his Spring Garden mansion, and had two of the vacuums in Florida and two at his Jersey Shore home in Margate.
In late 2004, he said, Fumo cautioned him to stop calling Citizens' Alliance.
"The feds are on me," Fonseca quoted Fumo as having said.
Fonseca also was asked about a painting of historic ship Gazela that the prosecution contended was paid for by Citizens' Alliance.
Fonseca said he thought he saw the painting in the foyer of the mansion in the summer of 2004.
The defense, however, used the testimony to try to poke holes in Fonseca's credibility.
Defense attorney Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., who represents Arnao, pointed out that the painting hadn't been framed until November 2004.
Jacobs also brought out that Fumo had 20 to 25 similar pictures - of ships in stormy conditions - and that some believed the hidden meaning of having so many ships in trouble was that Fumo "was doomed."