This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Murphy.
Linda Mangano is an innocent woman railroaded by the FBI and betrayed by a family friend, a lawyer for the wife of the former Nassau County executive told jurors Wednesday, adding that his client had been living a “crazy nightmare” since her arrest.
Defense attorney John Carman said star government witness Harendra Singh lied when he testified about his interactions with Linda as part of the “low-show” job the former restaurateur gave her.
But prosecutors say she was paid $454,000 for a phony job, one of several bribes Singh gave her husband, Edward Mangano. The couple then conspired to cover them up after the GOP official paid him back with two county contracts and pushed through loans for Singh’s Oyster Bay town food concessions, according to the government.
Closing arguments in the Bethpage couple’s federal corruption retrial ended Wednesday with Carman pleading his client’s case for a final time before the prosecution put in the last word.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Thursday after U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack instructs them on the law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Caffarone told the jury Edward Mangano was a “corrupt politician,” as the government wrapped up its case.
“The time has come,” said Caffarone, “for Ed Mangano and Linda Mangano to be held accountable.”
Throughout the trial, the defense has maintained that the perks from Singh were merely gifts from a longtime family friend. But Singh, Carman said Wednesday, is a “treacherous person.”
In contrast, he portrayed his client as a mother of two who has volunteered for several charitable causes and has had a 30-year career in advertising and public relations.
Carman also suggested the FBI “set a trap” for Linda Mangano after she “agreed to cooperate” by speaking to federal officials three times in 2015.
“Are these meetings really voluntary when you are the wife of the county executive?” the Garden City defense lawyer asked. “As voluntary as going to a root canal.”
Linda Mangano, 55, is standing trial for five felonies, charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
Edward Mangano, 56, is on trial for seven felony offenses that include bribery and conspiracy.
Prosecutors have contended Singh bribed Edward Mangano with other perks that included five family vacations to destinations including Florida and the Caribbean, two luxury chairs, hardwood flooring for the Manganos’ bedroom and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of their sons.
The government says Edward Mangano paid Singh back for his alleged bribes by asserting his influence as Nassau’s new county executive in early 2010 to sway Oyster Bay officials into granting what amounted to $20 million in indirect loans for Singh’s now-defunct restaurant empire.
Prosecutors also say Edward Mangano illegally steered to Singh in 2012 a contract to supply bread and rolls to Nassau County’s jail, and a no-bid emergency contract to provide food to relief workers at a county emergency operations center — together worth more than $400,000.
The indictment against the Manganos accuses Linda Mangano of telling 11 specific lies to the FBI, almost all about her employment with Singh.
Prosecutors have said Singh came through with the “no-show” job for her when the couple had a more than $100,000 salary gap to fill after Edward Mangano left his roles as a private practice attorney and part-time county legislator on his election to the helm of Nassau’s government.
Carman acknowledged Wednesday that the couple’s finances were “an issue” after Edward Mangano took office as county executive in January 2010.
But he told jurors “it would almost be strange” for Linda not to have taken a job with Singh at that point, calling him “someone she believed to be a close friend.”
“It was not a secret arrangement,” the attorney added.
Later, he called his client “the only Singh Hospitality employee to pay her taxes” — a reference to other Singh employees’ dodging government deductions by accepting a portion of their salaries in cash.
Carman also attacked Singh’s testimony that the restaurateur visited the Manganos’ home about 750 times during the stretch from 2010 to 2014, but that he didn’t talk to Linda about his business.
Among the allegations, the indictment accuses Linda Mangano of lying about meeting with Singh three or four times a week at her home to discuss design idea for restaurant menus.
The defense attorney implored the jury to examine emails and other “work product” his client generated in 2010 in connection with projects she did with the manager of Singh’s Water’s Edge restaurant in Queens.
He also attacked the FBI’s interview process, saying federal officials had a “perfect opportunity” to flip on a recorder before a third meeting with Linda Mangano, but didn’t.
The defense attorney sharply criticized FBI Special Agent Laura Spence’s note-taking, saying she had to change word order, alter syntax and grammar, insert some of her own language and edit out other words to compile Linda Mangano’s purported false statements.
“Can a non-verbatim statement in a false statements case ever be reliable? The words are important, not some ballpark version,” Carman said.
But Caffarone said it’s clear Linda Mangano lied to investigators and he urged jurors to set aside any sympathy, adding: “Nobody is above the law, no matter how much you like her.”
Caffarone said she chose to be interviewed, and then she chose to lie. “If she had told the truth, she would have admitted her job was a bribe, causing problems for her dear friend and her husband,” he said.
The prosecutor also circled back to rebut arguments Edward Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, made in his closing argument.
Keating had said his client took no “formal government action” in exchange for what prosecutors claim were bribes from Singh, whom he dubbed a “sociopath” who repeatedly lied during the trial.
Keating also tried to counter the government’s contention that Edward Mangano broke the law by using his clout to sway Oyster Bay officials into backing loans for Singh after the town’s outside counsel said it was illegal.
Keating argued that Singh had been signing favorable food concession agreements with Oyster Bay for more than a decade by 2010 and didn’t need Mangano’s influence when he already always “got his way” with then-Town Supervisor John Venditto and other municipal officials.
Venditto won an acquittal on corruption charges last May at the proceeding that ended in a mistrial for the Manganos.
But Caffarone said Wednesday that notes attorney William Savino took of a conversation with Mangano, a former law firm colleague, regarding the Singh loan deal was like a “bloody knife in a murder case” that showed Mangano played a key role.
The defense has insisted Singh landed part of the bread and rolls contract only after the county legislature’s then-presiding officer stressed that contracts should go to local vendors.
But Caffarone said the testimony of two county purchasing employees who were each a “pillar of credibility” showed Mangano was behind that deal, too.
The defense also has maintained it was other county employees who had relationships with Singh, and not Edward Mangano, who steered the post-Sandy contract to him.
But the prosecutor pointed in part to the $7,300 wristwatch Singh had delivered to one of the Manganos’ sons right after he won that contract.
Throughout the trial, the defense has framed Singh, 60, of Laurel Hollow, as a liar who would say anything against the Manganos to try to win leniency at his upcoming sentencing for crimes including bribery and tax evasion.
But Caffarone told jurors it wasn’t the government who choose Singh, a criminal, as a witness, but rather the defendants who did so by their actions.
“Today’s friend is tomorrow’s government witness,” the prosecutor said. “Just ask the Manganos.”