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Power on Trial: Of bribes and town salaries

Leonard Genova, once deputy to former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, was grilled by defense attorneys Wednesday.

Defense attorneys on Tuesday questioned former Town of

Defense attorneys on Tuesday questioned former Town of Oyster Bay Attorney Leonard Genova, seen in Oyster Bay on May 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Self report

“You are a licensed attorney in the state of New York who has admitted committing bribery?” Marc Agnifilo, the defense attorney for John Venditto, Oyster Bay’s former town supervisor, asked Leonard Genova, Venditto’s former deputy. Venditto, former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Mangano’s wife, Linda, are on trial in federal court in Central Islip.

“Yes,” Genova replied.

In light of Genova’s admission, Agnifilo went on, has he alerted state licensing officials? “No, I have not,” said Genova, who is receiving immunity for his testimony.

“Do you plan to?,” Agnifilo pressed.

“I plan to do whatever my attorney . . . tells me to do,” Genova said. “If that’s part of what I need to do, I’ll do it.”

From there, he went on, “I said from day one that I accepted . . . call it bribery, call it whatever you want.”

“You are still a licensed lawyer who has admitted to bribery,” Agnifilo, who repeatedly has clashed with Genova over two days of cross examination, shot back. “You have no intention of calling . . . ”

At that point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine M. Mirabile objected, and U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack sustained.

Making a list

On redirect, Mirabile once again asked Genova about bribes.

“For contractors and vendors in Oyster Bay, was that a rogue thing?” she asked.

Agnifilo objected. His objection was sustained.

“Others taking bribes . . . is that the Oyster Bay way?” she tried again.

Agnifilo objected. And his objection was sustained.

After a sidebar, Mirabile got more specific.

“Are you aware of other Town of Oyster Bay officials accepting bribes from Harendra Singh?” she asked.

“Yes,” Genova answered.

“Who?”

“I think my recollection . . . was John Venditto, Rich Porcelli, Steve Marx, Rich Betz, Mike Falzarano, Joe Mondello,” Genova testified.

“ . . . I think just those are some of the few. Again, there’s the nature of Mr. Singh’s way of doing business and what he provided to many of our employees at his facilities on an ongoing basis,” Genova testified.

“It’s almost too difficult to compute and keep track of because there were many employees and many of them did it regularly.

“It was so many, it’s hard to be more specific.”

“Was it a secret that Harendra Singh was giving things of value to town officials?” Mirabile asked.

“No,” Genova answered. “Not at all.”

Picking up the tab

Mirabile circled back to ask Genova about jobs the town gave the brother of Mangano, then the Nassau County executive, and others at the request of Mangano and other officials.

On Tuesday, Genova, who had responsibility for hiring, said he often tried to keep a few noncompetitive posts open in town government so he could accommodate such requests.

He said that among other hires, the town brought on Mondello’s wife as a consultant and his daughter as an employee. Oyster Bay gave the mother of Mangano’s administrative assistant a job as well, Genova said.

“Who is paying these salaries?” Mirabile asked.

“The Town of Oyster Bay,” Genova replied.

“Who is that?” Mirabile asked.

“That’s the residents and taxpayers of the Town of Oyster Bay,” Genova replied.

On the hook

Agnifilo also returned Wednesday to the subject of Genova’s signing papers, including documents relating to the town’s backing of loans for Singh, without reading them.

“You don’t even know that the documents you signed without reading had anything to do with Singh, right?” Agnifilo asked.

“That’s correct,” Genova answered.

“You just signed them?” Agnifilo pressed.

“That’s correct,” Genova replied.

“And you ended up putting the Town of Oyster Bay on the hook for $20 million, right?” Agnifilo said.

“You know what, counselor,” Genova shot back, “I had a lot of time to think about it. That wasn’t just me, OK? . . . I find it pretty offensive for you to say that was just on me.”

Genova went on to say he currently was in a “nightmare.”

“The nightmare for you is you’re sitting in that seat,” Agnifilo, voice rising, snapped back, pointing to the witness stand.

“You are not sitting in THAT seat,” Agnifilo went on, pointing to the defendants’ table, “because you got immunity.”

Genova was excused a few minutes later.

Building permitted

A drawing of a circle, encircled by a second, squiggly circle, with the word “SEAL” handwritten in the middle made for one of the more interesting exhibits shown on the courtroom’s big screen Wednesday.

It was on a document related to a building at 329 Broadway in Bethpage, which, before 2011 was owned by Mangano — although the witness, Timothy Zike, Oyster Bay’s deputy commissioner of planning and development, said he did not know of Mangano’s ownership.

Zike testified that he did, however, recognize the handwriting on the drawing.

He said it looked like that of a building inspector employed by the town in 2012 named Gary Blanchard.

“You feel comfortable saying that’s his handwriting?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz asked.

“Yes,” Zilke replied.

A few minutes later, she asked about a note atop another document.

It said, “Gary, issue CO as per Fred.”

“Who is the Gary in this, if you know?” Treinis Gatz asked.

“I could make the assumption that it would be Gary Blanchard,” Zike replied.

“Who’s Fred?” she asked.

Zike answered that it was Frederick Ippolito, the town’s former commissioner who pleaded guilty to federal income tax charges, which were dismissed after he died in prison.

Zike, based on his review of a file relating to the property, went on to testify that a new two-story building was almost completely built out on the site — before building permits and a certificate of occupancy were issued.

The building violated town code in a variety of ways, he said. The building, for example, was supposed to have more than 30 parking spots on site.

Instead, it had zero, so that patrons have no choice other than to park on adjacent streets, where spots were at a premium.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Zike testified.

Singh, in earlier testimony, said that Mangano’s building was sold with the expectation that the buyer, Jerry Kohli, would be able to build what he wanted on the site.

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