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Jurors hear closing arguments in Mangano retrial with more to come

The prosecution called Edward Mangano and Harendra Singh "partners in crime." But the defense dubbed Singh "a morally bankrupt sociopath."

Edward and Linda Mangano arrive at federal court

Edward and Linda Mangano arrive at federal court in Central Islip on Monday. Photo Credit: James Carbone

This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Murphy.

Edward Mangano broke the public's trust as soon as he became Nassau County executive, trading power for profit by accepting bribes from a restaurateur and family friend who also used the Republican leader to get what he wanted for his business, a federal prosecutor told jurors Monday.

"For Ed Mangano, public service was self-service. From the moment he took office, he cashed in the power to benefit himself and his wife," Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile said in her closing argument at the federal corruption retrial of the former GOP official and his wife, Linda Mangano.

But a lawyer for Edward Mangano countered that Harendra Singh, a former self-anointed "restaurant mogul" who became the prosecution's star trial witness, was a "morally bankrupt sociopath" who "would lie for 10 cents" and had perjured himself again and again on the witness stand.

"He's a sociopath. Unfazed," defense attorney Kevin Keating said of Singh. He then gestured toward his client, adding: "And his life is on the line."

With that, Edward Mangano, gave a nod at the defense table.

But the prosecution told jurors that when the FBI was closing in, the then-county executive compounded his crimes by scheming with his spouse to try to cover up bribes that included her $454,000 "no-show" job with Singh, before she repeatedly lied to authorities about it.

Closing arguments began Monday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip as the retrial entered its sixth week after testimony from more than three dozen prosecution witnesses.

The government has alleged Edward Mangano took bribes from Singh that also included free meals and vacations to destinations including the Caribbean and Florida, wood flooring for the master bedroom of the Bethpage couple's home, two luxury chairs and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of their sons on his 21st birthday.

The prosecution, which called the two "partners in crime," says Edward Mangano reciprocated with official government action, using his political clout shortly after ascending to the helm of Nassau's government in January 2010 to sway Oyster Bay officials into agreeing to back what later amounted to $20 million in indirect business loans for Singh. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office also says Edward Mangano exploited his power by steering two county contracts to Singh in 2012 that together were worth more than $400,000. One was to supply bread and rolls to Nassau's jail, and the other was a no-bid contract to feed relief workers at a county emergency operations center after superstorm Sandy.

But the Manganos maintain their innocence and insist the perks Singh provided were merely gifts from a longtime family friend – gifts that Keating said Monday the couple didn't even want.

Keating pointed to text messages Linda Mangano exchanged with Singh on two different years while inviting him to come by for cake to celebrate her husband's birthday.

"No gift. Nothing please. Just your friendship. Love you," she texted him one year.

The defense attorney also attacked the government's accusation that Linda Mangano's "no-show" job was a bribe to Edward Mangano.

Keating said that three days before her first paycheck, Singh registered one company he owned as a county vendor in the hope that he would win municipal business, and later cited that as  Singh's motivation for hiring Linda Mangano when he met with the government as a cooperating witness.

But Singh won "zero" county business for that particular venture he owned, Keating said.

 Mirabile, however, dubbed the employment a bribe and implored jurors to use common sense when considering why Singh put Linda Mangano on his company's payroll in April 2010.

"You don't get a $100,000-a-year no-show job for nothing," the prosecutor said.

Mirabile also broke down details of each of the three alleged schemes, asking jurors to pay attention to the prosecution's theory of the chronology of when Edward Mangano took government action in connection with when Singh paid him an alleged bribe.

"They both had something the other needed," Mirabile said, adding that Edward Mangano and Singh "used each other" and were "tied by corruption, power and greed."

"Harendra Singh and Ed Mangano were partners in crime," the prosecutor told jurors.

Bribes started flowing in and the corruption began with the Oyster Bay loan scheme right after Edward Mangano's election, according to Mirabile.

She told jurors the politician was looking to fill a salary gap, after trading life as a part-time county legislator in private legal practice to become county executive, at the same time Singh's restaurant empire needed an infusion of financing.

Mirabile said Mangano knew the perks from Singh weren't gifts because he never declared them as such, as required on county financial disclosure forms.

The county executive "was on retainer" for Singh, the prosecutor said, before alluding to the litany of alleged bribes.

"Every time he cashed his wife's check, every time he sat in that race car office chair, every time he sat in the leather massage chair, every time he walked on that hardwood floor – every time – he knew he was on retainer," Mirabile added.

But Keating scoffed at the idea that any criminality had occurred just because his client didn't make certain disclosures on a county form.

"The fact that a chair wasn't disclosed makes this a bribery scheme? Are you kidding me?" he said.

The prosecutor also detailed for jurors the 11 alleged falsehoods Linda Mangano told federal authorities.  While having a "no-show" job isn't illegal, she said, lying to obstruct an investigation is a crime and the Bethpage woman repeatedly had done just that.

Mirabile said Linda Mangano "did nothing and was expected to do nothing," yet made claims such as that Singh came to her home three or four times a week to discuss ideas.

"Ask yourselves, in what universe does a $100,000-a-year job exist where your boss comes to you to toss around design and marketing ideas?" Mirabile said.

Throughout the trial, the defense has portrayed Singh, 60, of Laurel Hollow, as a liar who would say anything to avoid a long prison sentence for his crimes of bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and tax evasion.

Edward Mangano's attorneys also have contended Singh only landed part of the bread and rolls contract after the county legislature's then-presiding officer stressed that contracts should go to local vendors.

Keating on Monday pounced on Singh's testimony that he met with then-Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato 20 to 25 times to lobby for the deal, quipping: "I don't know that countries negotiating arms treaties meet that many times."

Singh later pulled out of the bread and rolls contract.

The defense also has maintained that other Nassau County employees who had relationships with Singh, and not Edward Mangano, steered the post-Sandy contract to the restaurateur.

Keating pointed to Nassau County's "$3 billion budget, with a 'b'," telling jurors: "But for an act of God, Harendra Singh, during the entirety of the Mangano administration would receive not a penny."

Edward Mangano's defense attorney tried to drive home the idea that his client didn't have the necessary political capital to influence Oyster Bay officials into backing loans for Singh only a few months after taking office as county executive.

Prosecutors have said Edward Mangano pushed through the loan deal despite the reservations of town officials.

But the defense has contended throughout the trial that by that time Oyster Bay had been doing business with Singh for years, and he had ingratiated himself to municipal personnel in ways that included building a conference room for then-Town Supervisor John Venditto in the basement of his now-defunct flagship restaurant, HR Singletons.

Venditto won an acquittal on corruption charges  in the same proceeding last May in which a jury didn't deliver a verdict for the Manganos.

Monday, Keating said Oyster Bay "rigged everything for Singh."

He also downplayed his client's presence at what prosecutors have called a key meeting that was held at Venditto's political headquarters in April 2010 to find a legal basis for Oyster Bay to back loans for Singh after the town's outside counsel said it was unconstitutional.

Edward Mangano, Keating said, showed up late and stood against the wall.

The former Nassau county executive, who is 56, is standing trial on seven felony offenses that include bribery and conspiracy.

His wife, 55, is on trial for five felonies that include charges of making false statements to the FBI.

Closing arguments continue Tuesday.

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