A key figure in the government’s corruption case against former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto wore a wire for the FBI for months and taped at least one conversation with the businessman at the center of the allegations, court records show.
Former Oyster Bay Deputy Town Attorney Frederick Mei began wearing a wire as an FBI cooperator in February 2015, taping a lengthy conversation with restaurateur Harendra Singh that included talk about town officials confronting Mei about potential misconduct, according to court papers.
The revelation emerged publicly in a Feb. 16 filing from Venditto’s attorneys, who are seeking — along with the government — to obtain unredacted copies of certain town documents before the defendants’ federal criminal trial begins next month.
The disclosure to the defense about Mei wearing an FBI wire came in records federal prosecutions turned over last week.
Venditto, Mangano and Mangano’s wife, Linda, have pleaded not guilty in an alleged bribery scheme in which the elected officials are accused of illegally helping Singh get $20 million in indirect loan guarantees and government contracts in exchange for kickbacks, and a $450,000 no-show job for Linda Mangano.
The town has asserted attorney-client privilege among its arguments and opposed handing over unredacted copies of dozens of emails and other documents.
Among documents at issue are the statements of Mei and others from interviews with the town, which Venditto’s court filing argues the municipality used in filing suit against Singh, Mei and others while seeking damages over their alleged roles in the indirect loan guarantees.
Venditto also contends the town used those statements to defend against civil litigation after Singh defaulted on loans.
Both Singh and Mei secretly pleaded guilty in the case, developments that became public recently as part of other documents the government provided to the defendants before their upcoming trial.
Singh admitted in October 2016 to bribing Mangano and Venditto and trying to bribe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mei admitted in September 2015 to honest services fraud in a scheme in which he received $50,000 in checks made out to cash and payments on a BMW lease to help an unnamed town concessionaire — understood to be Singh — obtain millions in indirect loan guarantees.
In the Feb. 16 filing, Venditto’s defense team argues information the town hasn’t produced is “exculpatory” for the defendant. Calling Mei “the single most important witness in the case,” the motion argues his statement “is the worst kept secret in the town” and that Venditto’s right to confront that witness overcomes the town’s privilege claim.
It adds: “Everyone close to this case already seems to know that he completely exculpated Mr. Venditto. The only thing missing is the statement itself.”
The defense claims Venditto knew nothing of a scheme between Mei and Singh in regards to loans and indirect guarantees, and Venditto is therefore innocent.
Among other arguments, attorneys Marc Agnifilo and Joshua Kirshner also say in the filing — which Edward Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, joined in — that unredacted documents should be turned over because the town has waived its privilege by using Mei’s interview in both starting and defending against litigation.
Venditto’s court papers say Mei had been wearing a wire for four months when the town interviewed him in June 2015 – and argues he was in the process of making a deal with the government and not a client anticipating that a meeting with corporate counsel would be kept confidential.
“The town is in possession of evidence that would show that Mr. Venditto was neither involved in, nor even aware of, the Singh loans in 2011 and 2012,” Agnifilo said in a statement Monday. “Our papers argue that the town is under a legal obligation to provide this information to us and the government so that Mr. Venditto can receive a fair trial.”
Keating said Monday that all of Mei’s statements to the town should be released, adding that “the notion that confidentiality attaches to these statements, when in the same general time frame Mr. Mei is wearing a wire, is somewhat ridiculous.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment and other attorneys involved in the case couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
Edward Mangano has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion. His wife has been charged with making false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Venditto is facing charges of conspiracy, bribery, securities fraud, wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction of justice.
The case is scheduled to go to trial March 12.