Fred Mei, the former deputy Town of Oyster Bay attorney, wore a wire for the FBI during conversations with town officials in 2015, according to recent court filings.
Mei is at the center of the upcoming corruption trial against former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. Both former officials are accused of accepting extensive kickbacks in exchange for helping restaurateur Harendra Singh with his business dealings.
Attorneys for Venditto, in court papers, called Mei “the single most important witness” in the case, and say they believe that if Mei’s statements, including conversations he had while wearing a wire, are allowed to be used as evidence at trial, Venditto will be proven innocent.
Mei received a number of “tremendous” personal benefits from Singh, including all-expenses-paid trips to India and South Korea, in exchange for facilitating loan guarantees with the Town of Oyster Bay that Venditto was unaware of, defense attorneys said.
“There is no doubt that [Mei], along with Singh, orchestrated and conceived of the loans and indirect guarantees,” defense attorneys wrote, “and that he then sent the emails, made the phone calls, had the meetings and did other things to bring about the challenged loans and other financial agreements.”
Loans for which Singh sought Town of Oyster Bay guarantees included a $1.5 million line of credit from Madison National Bank and a $12.3 million loan from NDH Capital Corp., according to prosecutors.
In a series of emails exchanged on April 7, 2010, Mei and Jonathan Sinnreich, of Sinnreich, Kosakoff & Messina, Sinnreich raised legal concerns about the plan to guarantee Singh’s loans.
“Bottom line: I don’t see how the town can possibly guaranty an open-ended general-purpose line of credit for H’s business,” Sinnreich wrote.
Mei responded, in one of the emails, that Singh, and the bank, were “very willing to make changes to the guaranty, as long as it sticks to the ‘H fails, Town pays’ theme.”
Prosecutors said in court papers that Sinnreich was expected to testify at Mangano and Venditto’s trial.
Defense attorneys said that Mei has made statements to town officials that would exculpate Venditto, and that they should be introduced as evidence. The statements are “the worst-kept secret in the town,” they said.
“The only real issue is whether [Mei] did this on his own, or whether he was following Venditto’s direction, or acting with Venditto’s knowing consent,” attorneys continued. “If Mei was acting on his own, Venditto is innocent. It is that simple.”
Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to admit the 2010 email chain as evidence, as well as a number of redacted documents and emails for which attorney-client privilege has been asserted. Venditto and his defense attorneys are in the rare position of agreeing with the prosecutors, in hopes that some of the Mei material could exonerate Venditto.
Mangano and Venditto have maintained their innocence, and Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, said, in a statement published in Newsday, that Mangano had “no role in the lawful decision to have Rivkin [Radler] review the matter,” and the allegation that Mangano pressured the town to amend their agreement with Singh is “a total fiction.”
Mangano and Venditto are scheduled to go to trial next month.