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

The party planners, led by Ruth Arnao — the former executive director of Vince’s charity, Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, and his alleged co-conspirator — picked a date: March 21st. It was the same date as Christian’s serenade of Nicole. (The serenade is a traditional ritual in South Philly betrothals, a sort of formalized karaoke where the groom-to-be sings a song to the bride-to-be in front of all their loved ones.) Vince’s friends say this was a coincidence, an innocent scheduling snafu. But Nicole and Christian didn’t buy that for a second.

Christian sent Vince an e-mail: Hey, I’m not gonna be there at your surprise birthday party. So happy birthday.

It’s not easy to plan a surprise party for a powerful man. “Ruth calls me up, crying,” says Vincent II. “She’s in tears: ‘How did he find out?’” FumoWorld exploded in rage at Christian. His inbox began to fill up with scary messages. One ward leader close to Vince threatened to crash the wedding and make a scene. Christian called the Whitemarsh police. That’s why on March 22, 2003, two of the 184 guests sitting in the pews at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Lafayette Hill were undercover cops, there to make sure no one would try to prove his loyalty to Vince by storming inside and wreaking vengeance.

THE INDICTMENT, when it finally came down — February 6, 2007 — was a surprise. Not the fact of it. Everybody knew it was coming, thanks to the Inquirer, which had been churning out beefy scoops about the finances of Citizens’ Alliance all the way back to 2003.

The paper’s big revelation was that Vince had used his leverage as head of the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee to shake down PECO for a cool $17 million, concealing the money by funneling it to Citizens’ Alliance. But as it turned out, Vince wasn’t indicted for shaking down the $17 million — although he was indicted for allegedly scurrying to erase the evidence. No, he was indicted, broadly, for spending that windfall. On … home improvements. Seventy-five grand in toys: 17 identical Oreck vacuums for his multiple homes. Hundred-dollar-a-gallon white paint imported from Holland. According to the feds, this was part of a pattern. Vince used his Senate aides as personal maids and chauffeurs. He used Senate funds to hire a private investigator to spy on people he believed had turned their backs on him, including two of his ex-girlfriends and his former aide John Dougherty, now a political nemesis. The indictment is a catalog of the ways Vince Fumo apparently not only blurred the line between the personal and political, but hacked that line to bits with an illicitly purchased $449.99 meat saw.

And nowhere is this clearer than in the parts of the indictment that involve Christian Marrone. He appears, anonymously, as “Person No. 19.” We learn that he went to work for Vince in 1997, in his South Philly office at 1208 Tasker Street. In his first 18 months on the job, No. 19 spent 80 percent of his time supervising a top-to-bottom renovation of Vince’s mansion. The government prints a long string of e-mails that Vince sent Christian, demanding that repairs get done to sinks, tubs, toilets; the subject line of one was: “LEAKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK-FUCK-FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Christian also pops up in the indictment as a campaign worker on the 2002 gubernatorial race (supporting Vince’s horse, Bob Casey, over Ed Rendell); as a go-between for Vince and his private investigator; and as a Citizens’ Alliance worker bee and project manager.