New Homeland official was key figure in Pennsylvania corruption case

Administration won’t discuss vetting, or say if Jeh Johnson knew of top aide’s past

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In the more than five years he worked for Mr. Fumo, Mr. Marrone kept emails between him and his boss. After leaving the job, he held on to the emails, which would serve as key evidence in convicting his father-in-law and sending him to prison for four years.

“They were just there for my protection,” he told a prosecutor during the Fumo trial in 2008, explaining why he kept the documents. “I was afraid that this day would come and that I’d be sitting here.”

Although Mr. Marrone called Mr. Fumo an “evil individual” while testifying in court, working for him in the early years proved personally beneficial. According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr. Fumo asked Mr. Marrone to watch over his daughter Nicole when he learned that Mr. Marrone and she would be attending law school at Temple University together.

Mr. Marrone followed his boss’s orders, and a relationship developed. He married Nicole in the spring of 2003.

Mr. Marrone’s immediate family also benefited through his connection with Mr. Fumo. Mr. Marrone’s father was appointed to a prominent job as the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s director of operations. Last summer, the elder Mr. Marrone testified under a grant of immunity that his former position was a patronage job given to him by Mr. Fumo, as he helped the prosecution make its case that those on the turnpike commission were trading in contracts for political contributions. The elder Mr. Marrone, who was never charged, also testified that his son helped get him the job, according to press reports of the court case last year.

Mr. Marrone’s work for Mr. Fumo wasn’t always glamorous, but it did give him an inside look into how the senator built and ran his political empire, said former Philadelphia City Council member Frank DiCicco, a Fumo ally.

Mr. Fumo at the time of Mr. Marrone’s employment was using a nonprofit, Citizens’ Alliance for Better Neighborhoods, as a personal piggy bank to help fund his home renovation and fuel his political machine, prosecutors said.

Mr. Fumo reportedly funneled a $17 million donation from Peco Energy to the nonprofit, using his leverage as head of the Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee to shake down the utility, prosecutors alleged. Mr. Fumo didn’t serve time for the secret funds, only for the way he spent them.

Mr. Marrone, who testified that he never dealt with invoices for the mansion, held jobs in Mr. Fumo’s office, as well as at the nonprofit, according to the indictment. His only salary, however, came from the state.

Christian knew he was working for a nonprofit whose funds weren’t being used for that purpose. My God, he was the guy going to the senator’s house to oversee how all those funds were being used,” Mr. DiCicco said. “When pressure from the feds started coming down, to save his butt, he went the other way. He knew enough about everything to save himself. He kept the emails and the documents and had the proof he needed to make a deal. Otherwise, he’d be serving jail time.”

In his testimony, Mr. Marrone saw things differently, suggesting he was a victim of his political tutor.

“I treated [Mr. Fumo] as a mentor. I looked up to him, never thinking once he was doing something that would in any way, shape or form harm me,” Mr. Marrone told jurors.

Mr. Marrone’s first assignment in Mr. Fumo’s office was hardly unusual. He had to draw up a big map of all the civic groups in the senator’s district. Mr. Fumo was pleased with the work. Within weeks, Mr. Marrone testified, Mr. Fumo assigned him to oversee long-delayed renovation work on his mansion.

Mr. Marrone testified that he knew little about construction, but he dove into the task. He walked through the house making punch lists, overseeing the parade of contractors: electrical, heating, concrete, elevator, carpentry, painting, plumbing and cabinetry, to name just a few. Mr. Marrone’s uncle and cousin pitched in on the tile work.

Mr. Marrone parted ways with Mr. Fumo in 2002 after his wife, Nicole, had a personal falling-out with her father. He moved from the city to Philadelphia’s suburban Montgomery County and became a Republican, looking to start anew. Through his Philadelphia connections, he landed a job as an assistant prosecutor for Bruce Castor, who was district attorney at the time. Mr. Castor was running in the Republican primary against Tom Corbett, who is now governor, to win the party’s nomination for state attorney general.

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About the Author
Kelly Riddell

Kelly Riddell

Kelly Riddell covers national security for The Washington Times.

Before joining The Times, Kelly was a Washington-based reporter for Bloomberg News for six years, covering the intersection between business and politics through a variety of industry-based beats. She most recently covered technology, where her reports ranged from cybersecurity to congressional policymakers.

Before joining Bloomberg, she was a management consultant and ...

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