The Betrayal

For 30 years, as Vince Fumo ruled Philadelphia politics, we knew how he operated: You were either on his side or he’d try to destroy you. The behind-the-scenes run-up to his federal trial this month reveals something new: His family works in exactly the same way

And if Vince weren’t Vince, the tragedy of the Fumos would remain a private one. But on September 8th, when the federal trial begins (assuming Vince doesn’t strike a plea bargain, which at press time appeared unlikely), the private saga will spill into the public life of Philadelphia. Because Vince won’t merely be staring down the barrel of a 139-count indictment on charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He’ll be staring down his own family. At some point during the trial, Vince will look up at the witness box and see, providing key testimony for the government, none other than his son-in-law, Christian P. Marrone.

THE WEDDING FLAP HAD BEGUN INNOCENTLY enough back in 2001, with a disagreement over the guest list. Vince sent his ex-wife Susan Meo and her husband Joe a list of people he wanted to invite. The Meos sent it back with five names crossed off. According to Vincent II, “My dad was like, what the fuck is wrong with this? They crossed off all the Jews.” Vince e-mailed the Meos:

I have invited the people I chose to invite. Look, if you all want me involved, I come with my baggage or I don’t come at all!!! I WILL NOT BE INSULTED LIKE THIS!!!

Baggage. The Meos knew this was coming. Most of the time, they got along with Vince okay, but it was a wary relationship. Susan was a retired RN, Joe a business, estate-planning and tax lawyer; they donated to GOP causes, planted GOP signs on their well-manicured Whitemarsh lawn. Joe showered Christian and Nicole with love and attention, a fact that Vince had always resented. (He’d tell his friends, “Look, this guy didn’t have any kids of his own, and he decided he wanted a family — so he took mine.”) And now this Jew thing … They regarded it as vintage Vince, and dismissed his objection as “preposterous.”

In reaction to Vince’s insistence on controlling things, Nicole and Christian decided to postpone the wedding and try again in six months. But six months later, it was even harder. This time around, the Meos made it clear that the guest list was non-negotiable, and Vince, still simmering, decided to apply some leverage. He had known Christian’s father, Carmen Marrone, for decades. Carmen was one of Vince’s guys — a committeeman in South Philly, and an official with the Turnpike Commission, a job he owed to Vince. “He went to get [Carmen’s] support,” says Joe Meo. “It’s like a campaign. An election … it’s a political trick in your own family.”

This was the last straw for Nicole and Christian. They let Vince know he wouldn’t be welcome at the wedding. Vince’s friends had never seen him so upset. “It was just awful,” says a longtime confidant. “It’s just an absolutely hideous thing for a child to do.” So Vince’s people planned a surprise birthday party at the Sheraton Society Hill, seven weeks before his actual birthday — “as a distraction,” says the friend, “so that he would be with his friends and not left alone under those circumstances.”