Aide to Fumo expected to plead guilty

August 6, 2008 5:21:36 PM PDT
A computer technician accused of illegally destroying years' worth of state Senate computer records will plead guilty next week, marking the first plea in the corruption case against Sen. Vincent Fumo. Leonard Luchko will plead guilty at a hearing Monday in Philadelphia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Zauzmer said Wednesday. He declined to specify terms of the plea agreement, which had not yet been filed.

Luchko is charged in 29 obstruction or conspiracy counts, all relating to attempts to delete e-mails or computer records during the FBI investigation. He and a colleague destroyed e-mails from computers at Fumo's Senate offices, New Jersey shore home, and at a South Philadelphia nonprofit he controlled, the FBI charged.

Fumo, 65, is stepping down after 30 years in office to prepare for his Sept. 8 trial, which is expected to last several months.

The powerful Philadelphia Democrat is charged with misusing more than $1 million in state resources and another $1 million from a seaport museum and the nonprofit.

The 267-page indictment paints Luchko, who earned $60,000 a year in his Senate job, as one of Fumo's many loyal underlings.

In an August 2003 e-mail, a stressed Luchko explained why Fumo's Philadelphia district office needed better equipment than colleagues in Harrisburg: "I would like to see their reaction when they are told to support the Senator his family, girlfriends and business associates along with the staff their friends and their kids 24 hours a day.

... PS I love my job and wouldn't trade it for any job in the Senate!" Luchko wrote.

A year later, as Fumo allegedly told his staff to delete their e-mails weekly, Luchko wrote: "Boss is driving us ALL nuts with this FBI madness."

Neither Luchko's lawyer, James Schwartzman, nor a lawyer for Fumo, Dennis Cogan, immediately returned calls for comment after work hours Wednesday.

Fumo, a millionaire banker and lawyer, beat two federal indictments early in his political career. His term ends in November, but he has already given a farewell speech on the Senate floor in order to focus on the trial.

He controlled 90 Senate jobs before he resigned as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and more through his seats on various corporate and civic boards.

The other defendants in the Fumo case are Ruth Arnao, the former director of the nonprofit Citizens' Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, and fellow computer technician Mark Eister.


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