By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
At the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, she became a one-woman networking service who seemed well-acquainted with most of the executives in the Valley. "If you went to a chamber golf tournament and were standing next to her, she would introduce you to every CEO," says a local banker. "They just would flock to her."
And she was never embarrassed by this level of attention. On the contrary, she has needed attention: It is one of the primary qualities that her friends describe. "As terrible as AzScam has been, I think that at some gut level, the attention really turns her on," says an old high school friend. "She cannot be loved enough."
There was always more to Foster, however, than the wholesome, gorgeous exterior. In particular, she says, there was a preoccupation that out of her need for her conservative parents' approval, she kept under wraps throughout her years at home: She is a thrill seeker. "I have to have excitement in my life," she says. "I do not want to be with boring people. I would rather be out with some lunatic!" As soon as she'd completed a couple of years at SCC, her cravings drew her toward scenes of power. First she got into politics, as a campaign worker for conservative John Conlan during his ill-fated 1986 primary race for the U.S. House of Representatives against John Kyl (He stood for everything I thought was right and good for America"). She was attracted to her job at the chamber because it allowed her to hobnob with "cream of the crop" business people as well as legislators and lobbyists. She made only $16,000 a year, but she speaks of it as a glamorous career, in part because recruiting new members was a portion of her job. Some onlookers say that her need for excitement extends to her private life, that post-Plummer she has chosen companions who seem out of synch with her sheltered upbringing and naive manner. "I think there is a certain attraction to high rollers for Shiree," says attorney Jones, who feels he has come to know her well during the past two years. "And I think that before AzScam happened, she had a tendency to get involved without much thought."
Says friend Vosburgh: "Shiree should be with someone like Tom Cruise, the nice guy next door, but that would bore her to tears. She wants someone who is going to wine and dine her and smoke and cuss and drink. Even though she doesn't do those things, I think she lives her life through someone that does."
Vosburgh believes that Foster's preferences have led her into relationships with men she perceived to be slightly dangerous. "That whole involvement with drugs, money, danger: She thrived on it. She literally wanted to be in the middle of all that action," Vosburgh says. "We would be out with Romano, and she would go, 'Look, I think Romano is packin' a heater.' I would say, 'What's a heater?' She knew every term. I think she may have seen too many Mafia movies. I will still pick up Vanity Fair and read about the Mafia and I will think Shiree is talking to me."
And yet Foster maintained a surprising innocence about some details, and Vosburgh believes the innocence, although inconsistent, is genuine. "I don't think it ever crossed her mind that Romano might be dealing drugs or his son might be," Vosburgh says. "I don't think she would even know what money laundering is."
Whatever the attraction, Foster became involved with Sbrocca, and observers believe it has done more than break her heart: that it is the reason Joseph Stedino drew her into AzScam.
That Stedino went hunting for her is clear from the transcripts: During their first meeting, in August of 1990, he scolded her for unresponsiveness, saying that he had been trying to reach her for a month at the chamber without success. He had called three fruitless times; it wasn't until she was also telephoned and encouraged to be in touch with Stedino by Paul Haita, a hanger-on of Sbrocca's who had also attached himself to Stedino in the early days of the "sting," that she traipsed over to Stedino's office in the Camelback corridor to sell him the chamber membership he claimed to want.
(In What's In It for Me?, Stedino doesn't admit to luring Foster to his office with repeated telephone calls, as he does in the transcripts. Instead, he says that liaison Haita fairly forced the meeting on him. Stedino has now disappeared, and Haita wouldn't speak to New Times.)
Several people close to Foster, including Sbrocca, believe that Stedino pursued her in order to gain further information about Sbrocca, whom he knew to be under federal investigation. Sbrocca acknowledges that because of his Italian heritage, rumors connecting him to the mob have been circulating in Phoenix for "30 years," but that in 88, the FBI began in earnest to concentrate upon him. He also says that he's squeaky clean: "I have no criminal record. I have nothing to really hide." He adds that he plans to recover through civil suits all that law enforcement agencies have taken from him with their accusations, which he says have totally ruined his business. "I am not scared of these people," he says.