This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Fuller and Murphy.
Leonard Genova’s recall of a pivotal meeting about Oyster Bay backing loans for restaurateur Harendra Singh seemed to falter Thursday as he testified at the corruption retrial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who’s accused of helping arrange the financing in exchange for bribes.
Defense attorney Kevin Keating, in cross-examining Genova, highlighted inconsistencies in the former Oyster Bay Town attorney’s accounts of the April 2010 gathering at the political headquarters of former Town Supervisor John Venditto.
“John Venditto chaired the meeting, right?” Keating asked.
“And Ed Mangano . . . I think that was my testimony yesterday, sir,” Genova replied.
But Wednesday the witness said Venditto had presided over the gathering. He gave that testimony after taking the stand for the prosecution in the trial of Nassau’s former county executive and his wife, Linda, in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
Genova also testified Wednesday that Mangano had echoed comments by Venditto at the meeting, telling the political appointees and town officials who were present: “We’ve really got to get this done for Mr. Singh.”
But Edward Mangano’s attorney confronted Genova on Thursday with an earlier statement the witness made to prosecutors in which he reportedly said he didn’t remember Mangano speaking at the meeting.
Genova said Thursday that he didn’t remember telling the government that in the past, an answer that prompted Edward Mangano to slam his hand on the defense table in apparent frustration.
The former county executive is accused of giving Singh illegal kickbacks that included two county contracts and using his influence shortly after his election to the helm of Nassau’s government in January 2010 to help the restaurateur get Oyster Bay’s indirect backing on tens of millions of dollars in loans.
Prosecutors say Singh bribed Mangano with perks that included vacations and meals, a $450,000 “no-show” job for his wife Linda, and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of the Bethpage couple’s sons.
Edward Mangano, 56, is standing trial on bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion charges. Linda Mangano, 55, is standing trial on charges of lying to the FBI about her alleged “no-show” job, along with obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
The couple’s retrial follows an initial proceeding that ended in May in a mistrial. Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto won an acquittal on corruption charges at the same trial.
In the last trial, Genova’s testimony focused more on Venditto, whereas his testimony this week targeted Edward Mangano.
Genova, who also served as Oyster Bay’s deputy supervisor, also testified Wednesday that Venditto wasn’t really fazed when an outside lawyer for the town objected to the loan deal for Singh on the grounds that it violated New York’s Constitution. Genova said then that Venditto told him Mangano had asked him to reach out to Mangano’s former law firm, Rivkin Radler, “to get this done.”
But Keating on Thursday pointed to a December 2016 report of a meeting between Genova and the government, during which Genova reportedly said he didn’t recall who set up the gathering.
Keating also called attention to a report from a January 2016 meeting between Genova and prosecutors in which Genova apparently said he had “no recollection” about who invited Mangano or Rivkin Radler lawyers to the meeting.
Then Keating asked Genova about a November 2016 government meeting in which Genova also apparently described the sequence of events surrounding the meeting in uncertain terms.
“Do you recall telling the government that you were speculating that Mangano called Venditto to set up the meeting?” Keating asked the witness.
“I don’t,” Genova replied.
Genova, 55, of Massapequa Park, is testifying under an immunity order that compels him to take the witness stand if called, nullifies his right not to incriminate himself and protects him from prosecution on any related crimes.
Genova has said he took free meals, free limo rides and discounted or free events from Singh, and agreed to pay a civil penalty for not disclosing the town’s loan guarantees when Oyster Bay offered bonds for sale.
Genova testified Wednesday during questioning by the government that Edward Mangano played a key role in getting Oyster Bay to back the loans in question for Singh. He said a 2010 deal had been a “no-go” after objections from the town’s outside attorney before the newly-minted county executive pushed town officials to put the matter back in play.
Genova testified Wednesday that Mangano was already at Venditto’s headquarters when he arrived at the gathering.
But Thursday, Keating exposed another crack in Genova’s testimony by showing Genova apparently told the government in December 2016 he didn’t remember if Mangano was at the meeting when he arrived.
“I don’t recall as I sit here today,” Genova testified Thursday of the discrepancy.
Keating then showed Genova his testimony from the Manganos’ 2018 trial, when Genova testified it was possible Edward Mangano had gotten to the meeting late.
On Thursday, Genova said in response: “I don’t recall.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz later briefly questioned Genova. She tried to address the inconsistencies and memory lapses that arose as the defense queried him about the 2010 meeting and other issues.
Genova, who met with the government once in December 2015 and again in January, November and December of 2016, said he lied in the first two meetings while he was represented by a law firm that had other town clients.
In the other meetings with prosecutors, Genova reiterated that he had a new attorney of his own, but felt “extremely constricted” in what he said because he still worked for the town.
“Are you denying that you made those statements?” to the government, Treinis Gatz asked of the statement he couldn’t recall under cross-examination.
“No,” Genova replied.
“ . . . Did you lie?” to the government, Treinis Gatz asked.
Genova acknowledged that he had withheld important information from prosecutors before entering into an immunity agreement. He said he did so because he was scared that if he said too much, Venditto would find out and his job would be at risk.
The witness testified Wednesday that he resigned from the town in early 2017, after hiring his own lawyer in October 2016 and beginning to talk more openly to prosecutors about their investigation.
Keating also tried to show Thursday that Oyster Bay officials were doing Singh’s bidding long before Edward Mangano became county executive, with Singh landing his first concession contract with the town in 1998.
Genova described how the town extended concession agreements to Singh, while he improved facilities at the town’s golf course catering venue in Woodbury and at the Tobay Beach facilities.
He said license agreements as far back as 2005 — long before the town approved the indirect loan guarantees that are the subject of this case — allowed Singh’s lenders to recover money they were owed if the contracts were terminated early.
Genova agreed Singh lavished perks on town officials that included a conference room he built in the basement of his former flagship restaurant in Bethpage, HR Singletons, that Venditto used, along with free meals and discounted events.
Testimony in the trial paused briefly when trial spectator Theresa Walch began crying and pointing at Genova before a court official asked her to leave.
She told Newsday that in 2016 she was forced out of a Syosset mobile home park that Genova’s family owned.
Walch’s outburst happened as Keating questioned Genova about several financial disclosures the witness failed to make despite a requirement to do so during his time as Oyster Bay’s deputy supervisor.
Among them, Genova failed to declare his interest in a partnership that bought the land in Syosset with one of Nassau’s last remaining trailer parks before evicting its residents.
After Walch’s exit, U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack called for a sidebar with attorneys for both sides before testimony soon resumed.
Walch told Newsday outside the courtroom that Genova “used his power in the town to railroad us out of our homes,” and said she came to court to see him face-to-face after reading that he was testifying.
Genova’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., later called Walch’s presence “a cheap publicity stunt” and her accusations “utter nonsense.”
Keating said the defense “had zero knowledge” the outburst would happen, and a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman declined to comment.