AUGUST 12, 2008
A top aide to an indicted Pennsylvania state senator has admitted that he followed his powerful boss’s orders to destroy incriminating electronic mail sought by federal agents investigating the lawmaker for corruption.
The aide was the manager of computer services for Philadelphia Democrat Vincent Fumo, who was charged last year with 139 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and filing false tax returns for stealing more than $2 million from the state Senate, a nonprofit and a museum. His federal trial is scheduled for next month.
When federal authorities began investigating Fumo, the veteran politician ordered the aide (Leonard Luchko) to erase electronic mail being sought by agents investigating his corruption case. Luchko also managed the computers of senate staff members as well as scores of contractors that did business with the office.
While pleading guilty to 28 counts of obstruction of justice this week, Luchko told a federal judge that he followed Fumo’s orders when he cleansed computer files at the senator’s office and home as well as his Black Berry of potentially damaging data from 2003 to 2005.
A 267-page federal indictment accuses Fumo of defrauding the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by repeatedly using Senate employees and contractors to serve his personal and political needs. It also charges the senator of defrauding a nonprofit organization that he established to improve neighborhoods in Philadelphia County by using its funds and employees for personal and political benefit.
Prosecutors say the veteran legislator also defrauded a museum whose board he sat on of more than $100,000. The indictment, which was filed in February 2007, also names several of Fumo’s aides, including Luchko, for extensive obstruction of justice.
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