This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Murphy.
Edward Mangano played a key role as Nassau county executive in securing Oyster Bay’s backing for millions in loans for Harendra Singh that prosecutors allege were kickbacks for bribes, a former town attorney testified Wednesday at the GOP official’s corruption retrial.
Leonard Genova said Mangano began lobbying John Venditto, then the town’s longtime supervisor, to help the restaurateur get financing as soon as Mangano took the helm of Nassau’s government in January 2010.
Even after Oyster Bay’s outside counsel strongly opposed such a deal, a call from Mangano to Venditto in April 2010 put the effort back on track, Genova said.
“The call from Ed Mangano to John Venditto changed the town’s position,” the witness recalled.
Genova, 55, of Massapequa Park, testified under an immunity order in U.S. District Court in Central Islip at the second trial of the former county executive and his wife, Linda Mangano.
In the first trial, Genova’s testimony focused more on Venditto, then a defendant who was ultimately acquitted of all charges. Wednesday, the witness targeted Edward Mangano more sharply in describing the then-county leader’s repeated efforts to influence the town’s decision to back Singh.
The Bethpage couple is standing trial again on felony charges after a mistrial in May at the same proceeding in which Venditto won an acquittal on corruption charges.
Prosecutors say Singh bribed Mangano with perks that included a $450,000 no-show job for his wife, along with vacations, free meals and home furnishings.
The government claims Mangano reciprocated with illegal kickbacks to the restaurateur that included using his political clout to influence Oyster Bay officials into vouching for Singh with indirect backing on tens of millions of dollars in business loans.
Edward Mangano, 56, is accused of bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion. Linda Mangano, 55, is accused of lying to the FBI, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Genova, who for decades was number two in Oyster Bay’s political pecking order, said Wednesday that Venditto told him soon after Mangano took office that Singh was having trouble getting financing to make improvements at town facilities where he had food concession agreements.
Genova said Venditto asked him to extend the town’s creditworthiness to Singh to help him, prompting Genova to contact the town’s outside counsel, Jonathan Sinnreich.
But the witness said Sinnreich’s major misgivings about such a deal became “my red light,” an indication “the town wouldn’t be moving forward.”
Genova said he told Venditto about Sinnreich’s objections and Venditto “wasn’t really fazed,” before later telling him Mangano had asked him “to reach out to Rivkin Radler to get this done,” referring to the Uniondale law firm where Mangano had previously worked
The witness said any loan deal for Singh had been a “no-go” until Venditto asked him to contact attorney William Savino at Rivkin Radler.
“I was overruled at this point,” Genova said of Venditto, a man he called his mentor of 25 years and someone who was like “an older brother.”
Genova, who also served as Oyster Bay’s deputy supervisor, resigned in early 2017. He said he hired his own attorney in October 2016 and began talking more openly to prosecutors about their town investigation.
A judge signed an immunity order later, requiring Genova to testify if called as a witness, nullifying his right not to incriminate himself and protecting him from prosecution on any related crimes.
Prosecutors sometimes seek immunity orders, usually after extensive negotiations with a person’s attorney, if that individual provides information helpful to their case.
Genova further testified Wednesday that Venditto told him in late April 2010 that he had talked to Mangano again and Mangano wanted to have a meeting between Rivkin Radler lawyers and town personnel on the loan guarantee matter.
Genova said he told deputy town attorney Frederick Mei to set up the meeting and make sure Sinnreich was there. The witness also testified Venditto changed his position on guaranteeing a loan for Singh because of multiple calls from Mangano.
“Politics is a game of favors – you do something for me, and I do something for you,” Genova told jurors.
Venditto then presided over a pivotal April 28, 2010, meeting at his campaign headquarters, according to Genova, who quoted him as saying: “We need to get this done for Mr. Singh.”
Mangano then echoed that sentiment, declaring: “We’ve really got to get this done for Mr. Singh,” Genova testified.
The witness also said during questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz that Venditto pushed Mangano at the meeting’s end to hire and promote members of his local Republican club.
“It was an opportune time for John Venditto to get a favor from Ed Mangano,” Genova said.
Rivkin Radler attorney William Cornachio soon came up with a way for the town to back Singh’s loans, according to the witness, who said he then kept concerns to himself.
Venditto’s approval of the solution after warnings from Sinnreich – who dubbed such a deal unconstitutional while testifying Tuesday – was “because of Ed Mangano’s request at that time,” Genova said.
When it came to town business, Singh had “an inside track” and contracts “were steered to him,” the witness also testified.
Singh’s short-term contract to run concessions at the town’s Woodbury golf course in 1998 became the first of the restaurateur’s many town agreements to run and expand operations there and at Tobay Beach, according to Genova.
He said he assigned deputy town attorney Frederick Mei to handle Singh’s contracts.
Genova also testified Oyster Bay’s town board was “a rubber stamp,” and never opposed to anything Venditto wanted.
A town board resolution following the April 2010 meeting at Venditto’s headquarters allowed Singh’s first Oyster Bay-backed line of credit to happen, and authorized several others in later years, the witness said.
Genova testified Mei prepared the agreements and he signed them without reading them. But in 2014, a federal subpoena arrived in Oyster Bay town offices demanding all documents related to Singh.
Then in 2015, Genova said, he learned from Mei that Singh was about $450,000 behind on loan payments and had Oyster Bay-backed loans of $15 million to $20 million.
The witness said he then told Venditto he wanted to call prosecutors and “get ahead of this” by trying to make Mei the scapegoat. But Genova said he “started to panic” during a February 2015 call with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in which Sinnreich, who also was on the line, began to talk “about everything.”
The next month, the town hired a Manhattan law firm to handle any potential criminal issues, and he and Venditto decided to place the blame on Mei, the witness said.
Genova said he agreed to talk more with federal prosecutors after Singh’s arrest in September 2015 to try “to put myself in the best light.”
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin Keating, Genova acknowledged he took free meals, free limo rides and discounted or free events from Singh.
Genova also admitted he had agreed to pay a civil penalty for not disclosing the town’s loan guarantees to the investing public when Oyster Bay offered bonds for sale.
The witness said while he hadn’t been truthful then, his immunity agreement requires him to testify honestly.
Genova told Keating that, in early 2015, Venditto started talking to him about blaming the loan guarantees on Mei and describing him as a rogue employee. Mei pleaded guilty to bribery and is expected to testify.
But the witness said Venditto didn’t fire Mei because “he thought it was much better” if they kept Mei close.
Genova agreed with Keating’s contention that Oyster Bay heaped generous benefits on Singh starting in 1998, and said no to him only once, when ordering him to remove a bar at Tobay Beach that had sparked complaints.