According to federal prosecutors, outgoing Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto began a scheme involving kickbacks, bribes and a “sham” job for Mangano’s wife with a former local restaurateur “immediately” after Mangano took office in 2010.
In new court papers filed on Nov. 14 outlining the government’s opposition to Mangano and Venditto’s motions to dismiss the corruption case against them, new details in the alleged conspiracy were laid out.
Prosecutors characterized the charges against the current and former officials as constituting “the most egregious forms of bribery,” in which corruption is “so pervasive that it involves more than a single gift or an isolated official act, and often lasts for years.”
Both men were arrested and charged in October 2016. Mangano allegedly got free vacations and other gifts — including a $450,000 “no show” salary for his wife Linda — in exchange for awarding county contracts to restaurateur Harendra Singh.
According to prosecutors, Mangano and Venditto, immediately after the January 2010 election, began to solicit and receive bribes and kickbacks from the restaurateur in exchange for official actions on an “as-needed” basis, and as opportunities arose for the restaurateur.
Mangano had been friends with Singh for 25 years before he began to receive gifts from him, after the election, prosecutors said.
Venditto allegedly also provided Singh with indirect Town guarantees on loans worth more than $20 million, between June 2010 and June 2012.
Mangano used his influence, according to prosecutors, to advise and pressure Venditto into guaranteeing the loans, after Mangano spoke with Singh and assured him that “it will get done.”
Mangano, according to the court papers, awarded lucrative contracts to the restaurateur from late 2011 to December 2012, including one contract to provide bread and rolls to the Nassau County Correctional Center, which Mangano promised Singh he would be awarded.
Singh was not the lowest bidder on the “bread and rolls” contract, according to prosecutors, and Mangano was actually advised against awarding the contract to the restaurateur. An unnamed individual in the county executive’s office intervened at one point to make sure Singh got the contract, prosecutors said.
In exchange for making sure Singh was awarded the lucrative contracts, Mangano was gifted with hotel and travel expenses, limousine services, meals, a massage chair, a Panerai Luminor watch and a hardwood flooring installation at his house, according to prosecutors. Venditto allegedly received similar kickbacks.
Also, between April 2010 and August 2014, Singh paid Mangano’s wife, Linda, who is also a defendant in the case, more than $450,000 for performing “little to no work” — allegedly after Mangano insisted on Singh giving her the “sham job.”
Prosecutors, as part of their obstruction of justice charge, claim that both Linda Mangano and Venditto made false statements to federal agents on multiple occasions.
“This case also concerns the great lengths these elected officials, and a family member, went to in order to obstruct justice and conceal their corrupt behavior,” prosecutors said.
Linda Mangano allegedly made up examples of the work she did for Singh, and Venditto claimed that neither he nor his family had received anything of value from Singh, when speaking with federal agents.
According to Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, who wants the cases severed if he is unable to get the charges dismissed, trying the two men together will likely result in both men “pointing the finger at each other” as they defend their cases, thus harming both cases.
“Although prosecutors would, no doubt, like to try the cases together for the sheer public spectacle of having two prominent Long Island politicians in the same court room,” Keating said, “such strategic considerations cannot justify a joint trial in this matter.”
Prosecutors, however, said in the Nov. 14 filing, that a joint trial of the two would be proper, because of judicial economy, and “the defendants have failed to overcome the strong presumption of trying” them together.
Keating has also argued that Mangano was never an official agent of the Town of Oyster Bay when any of the charged offenses occurred, because county executives don’t control town governments. Thus, Mangano was in no position to “pressure or advise” Venditto on his alleged actions, according to Keating.
Prosecutors said that whether Mangano was an official agent of the Town is “irrelevant” considering the evidence that he enabled and participated in Venditto’s alleged illegal actions.
Some of Venditto’s alleged actions that benefitted Singh may have been “forgeries by a rogue town employee” that were never approved by the Oyster Bay Town Board, and thus did not constitute official acts of government power, Keating also said, in his motion to dismiss.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said that it would be up to a jury to decide if Venditto was committing official acts, and that Mangano and Venditto’s attorneys were attacking the sufficiency of evidence that has not yet been presented at trial.
If convicted, Mangano and Venditto each face 20-year prison terms for each of the fraud and conspiracy charges against them, 10 years on the federal program bribery charge and five years for conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. Separately, Mangano faces up to 20 years on the extortion charge, and the Manganos and Venditto face 20 years on the obstruction of justice charge.
Their trial is set for Jan. 15.
Mangano called the charges “ridiculous” after his arraignment last year, and refused to step down as county executive, even after his fellow Republicans in the Legislature formally asked him to in April. His last day in office will be Dec. 31.