Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz urged jurors in the retrial of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda, to pay attention to the timing of gifts provided to the couple by their former friend, restaurateur Harendra Singh, in relation to when he received kickbacks from the county.
“Dates matter,” Treinis Gatz repeated often, in her opening arguments on Jan. 22 at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, “Corruption matters . . . This is a case about corruption and greed at the highest level of county government. ”
The Manganos are being retried on charges that Ed Mangano accepted bribes from Singh for political favors and that Linda Mangano lied to federal investigators about a no-show job she had with the restaurant mogul, after the first trial ended in a hung jury last year. Both were tried alongside John Venditto, the former Oyster Bay Town supervisor who was accused, but acquitted, of charges that he used the town to guarantee loans for Singh.
Ed Mangano’s defense attorney, Kevin Keating, described Singh as someone with a dark soul who tried, but failed, to influence the former county executive with gifts with the expectation of political favors. “You will hear him say,” Keating told the jurors, “’I got nothing. I lost money on Ed Mangano.’”
Singh last year testified that he provided the Manganos with, among other things, a custom office chair and a watch for their son in exchange for political juice to help his failing businesses. Keating said Singh, though, was lying in an attempt to gain leniency for his own crimes; he pleaded guilty in 2016 to eight charges, including federal program bribery and obstructing and impeding the due administration of internal revenue laws.
Treinis Gatz said Singh never provided the Manganos with gifts before Ed Mangano became county executive in 2010, despite being friends with them for more than 20 years. “Only after Ed Mangano had become Nassau County executive . . . did Mr. Singh bestow anything of value,” she said. “Dates matter. Timing is significant.”
When he took the county’s top post, Mangano took a pay cut of more than $100,000 when he left his job as an attorney. The gifts from Singh, and Linda Mangano’s no-show job, helped make up for that loss, Treinis Gatz said. “He sold himself and his office so that he and his wife could maintain the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed,” she said.
Keating, in his arguments and during cross-examination with witnesses, did not deny that Singh provided gifts to the Manganos, but said the restaurateur got little to nothing in return for them. The only county contract Singh received was an emergency one to provide food for government workers after Superstorm Sandy.
Treinis Gatz, though, said a county-approved caterer was already approved to do that job and that was the week Singh bought the Manganos’ son a $7,300 watch. She also said Ed Mangano steered a contract to Singh to provide bread and rolls to county jail inmates from a low bidder, who had been doing the work for 10 years.
Keating disputed that the bread and rolls contract was steered by Mangano, saying the late Peter Schmitt, the former presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature, wanted to ensure contracts went to local vendors like Singh. Singh, though, later backed out of the contract, as his bakery could not handle the work required.
Keating also called it “preposterous” that Mangano used his power to convince Oyster Bay officials to back Singh on $20 million in loans, saying he would not have the clout to do so as a newly minted county executive in 2010. He also said former town officials were already “doing backflips” for Singh, who ran concession stands on Oyster Bay property, by extending those contracts.
John Carman, Linda Mangano’s lawyer, warned jurors that the trial would not be as exciting as that of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is being prosecuted in Brooklyn, and that they should “bring toothpicks to court to keep your eyes open.”
“You’re going to be taxed to the max at this case,” Carman said. There was nothing illegal about Linda Mangano having a low-show or no-show job with Singh, Carmen said. At the crux of his opening statement was the contention that federal investigators were careless when interviewing Linda Mangano about the job by not recording or taping any of the three discussions.
“There is no word-for-word account of what Linda said in any of the three meetings,” he said, criticizing the “scribbled notes” of FBI Special Agent Laura Spence that prosecutors used to indict his client. “They went low-tech on her. Dare I say, they went no-tech.”
The trial is expected to last five to seven weeks, according to U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack.