2009-01-15 / Local & State

Aide To Former Pa. Senator Admits Pocketing $63K

By Maryclaire Dale ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A longtime secretary listed as a potential defense witness in the ongoing corruption trial of ex-state Sen. Vincent Fumo admitted that she pocketed $63,000 in state funds by padding Fumo's restaurant expenses.

Susan Skotnicki, 52, of Camp Hill earned $103,000 after 31 years in Fumo's Capitol office, most recently as his executive secretary.

Her plea Friday in the overbilling case came as prosecutors neared the end of their threemonth case against Fumo, who is accused of misusing nearly $2 million from the Senate and $1.5 million more from a charity and museum.

Skotnicki became at least the fourth conviction directly related to the Fumo investigation.

Two former Senate computer technicians have admitted they destroyed e-mail evidence on Fumo's orders. They're expected to testify against Fumo next week.

Political consultant Howard Cain pleaded guilty to tax evasion after investigators realized he had filed no returns from 1991 through 2006. He has since testified against Fumo.

Skotnicki submitted restaurant vouchers to the state Senate from Fumo's meals at La Veranda, a pricey waterfront restaurant Fumo frequented. Fumo maintained three house accounts there, under the names of the Senate, his campaign and his family-run bank.

Skotnicki, also known as Susan Swett, inflated or created vouchers, sometimes by copying the La Veranda letterhead. At times, she listed official dinners with more than 20 guests to justify the high tabs. The money went into a bank account jointly held by her and Fumo.

Skotnicki then tapped the bank account to pay about $12,000 for Fumo's actual restaurant charges and to write 89 checks to herself from 2001 to 2004 for more than $63,000, prosecutors said.

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