Many of the allegations detailed in last week’s indictment of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his spouse, and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto read like a sad, old song.
Pay to play. Contracts funded with public money going to a politician’s friend. Gifts, including two expensive chairs, wooden bedroom flooring and a watch. Limousine rides and free office space. Discounted rates to use private facilities for fundraisers and other activities. And an alleged no-show job, where the duties of Mangano’s spouse, Linda, included food tasting, prosecutors said.
But there’s one allegation that stands out from the rest: that Mangano and Venditto “used their official positions to influence and reach a particular outcome,” as a bail letter from U.S. Attorney Robert Capers put it, by having the Town of Oyster Bay guarantee loans for “Co-Conspirator #1,” identified to Newsday by sources as restaurateur Harendra Singh.
According to the indictment, “Edward Mangano used his official position to advise and pressure John Venditto” to amend concession agreements with Singh in 2010, 2011 and 2012, “all of which served as indirect guarantees for loans given to Co-Conspirator #1.”
And Venditto, the indictment states, “voted on town board resolutions related to the concession agreements” and signed, or had another town official sign, concession agreement amendments during those same years.
The straight line drawn by the allegations in the federal indictment — from Mangano to Venditto to Singh to the taxpaying residents of Oyster Bay who ended up backing several loans — stretches across political and jurisdictional lines.
Prosecutors allege that Mangano and Venditto orchestrated a scheme to help Singh, a friend Mangano has described as a brother, at the expense of the politicians’ own neighbors in the tight-knit town both call home.
On Friday, Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, scoffed at the government’s allegation about the loans. “The notion that Ed Mangano would have the desire or ability to influence the Town of Oyster Bay’s independent decisions four months into his administration is ridiculous,” he said.
Brian Griffin, Venditto’s attorney, had not returned a call for comment by Saturday evening. Last week, after an arraignment in which Venditto, Mangano and Mangano’s wife, Linda, pleaded not guilty, Griffin read a statement that said in part, “Mr. Venditto takes this indictment seriously, to be very clear, he . . . intends to defend against it vigorously.”
According to the indictment, Mangano, Venditto and Co-Conspirator #1 met in Venditto’s office in North Massapequa on April 28, 2010 — a few months into Mangano’s first term. On June 9, the indictment states, Venditto and Singh signed an amendment to a concession agreement Singh had with Oyster Bay.
Town board minutes from that date show that Venditto and the Oyster Bay Town Board voted unanimously to authorize the town to enter into an agreement with Singh’s bank to help him get a loan.
The town board’s justification? “Due to the global credit crisis . . . it has become difficult to secure financing for certain projects,” said the resolution, which also states that Singh’s bank was requiring the town to “enter into an agreement relating to the loan.”
The first loan secured by Singh as a result of the town’s vote was a $1.5 million line of credit.
A second loan, in May 2011, was for $3.4 million.
A third loan, in November 2011, netted Singh almost $7.9 million, and a fourth, in June 2012, gave him access to $12.3 million, according to the indictment — which also jibes with documents Oyster Bay provided to Newsday last year.
In handing over the documents to Newsday, Venditto and other officials asserted — and, in fact, the town still does — that Singh’s third and fourth loans went through without the knowledge, or approval, of town officials.
But the federal indictment makes no such distinction, alleging that all four loans were guaranteed indirectly by the town.
“As a result of the guarantees,” Capers said in a news release, “were Co-Conspirator #1’s entities to default on the loans, the Town would be responsible for repaying the bank and/or lender the entire amount on the loans.” In November 2015, after Singh had defaulted on the last two loans, lenders did begin demanding repayment from the town.
What did Singh do with the proceeds from the loans?
Prosecutors say the money went toward capital improvements for concessions Singh ran under agreements with the town.
And for improvements to some of Singh’s own business ventures as well.
The New York State constitution forbids municipalities from backing loans for private entities.