This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
A federal agent who interviewed the wife of the then-Nassau County executive about what prosecutors say was her no-show job testified Thursday that Linda Mangano initially discussed performing a large volume of work but later broke down in tears when she was subpoenaed for evidence.
“I would say she left the impression she did quite a lot,” FBI Special Agent Laura Spence said of their first meeting — on Jan. 13, 2015 — at Mangano’s Bethpage home.
Spence took on the stand in the federal corruption trial of former county executive Edward Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto — now in its eighth week in Central Islip.
Restaurateur Harendra Singh and prosecutors say he hired Linda Mangano for a no-show job that paid $450,000 from 2010 to 2014 as a means of bribing Edward Mangano.
Mangano in her first meeting with authorities said she handled menu changes, chose new colors for décor, worked on invitation lists for tastings, hosted Singh at her home to discuss design ideas and went often to his Queens restaurant, the Water’s Edge, Spence said.
It was a “pleasant” conversation, Spence said, adding, however, that there were inconsistencies in Mangano’s statements.
“It was kind of all over the place,” the witness said.
Asked for documentation, Mangano replied that her computer had crashed so she had lost some paperwork, Spence said. But she offered an email and some menus, Spence said.
A month later — on Feb. 6, 2015 — Spence and her partner served Mangano with a grand jury subpoena for evidence of her work for Singh, Spence said.
“She was visibly upset,” the agent said. “She was crying.”
Spence said the agents told Mangano to talk to her husband.
“We tried to calm her,” Spence said.
Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
Edward Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, face charges that include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services wire fraud, extortion for Mangano and securities fraud for Venditto.
The three have pleaded not guilty.
Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, pleaded guilty to bribing Edward Mangano and Venditto in exchange for two county contracts and more than $20 million in town-guaranteed loans.
Singh testified that his bribes to Mangano included the no-job show for his wife, a luxury watch for his son, free vacations and free meals at Singh’s restaurants. Singh said Venditto accepted free meals and free limousine services for himself, his aides, his family members and their guests.
Spence testified Thursday that she and her partner were leaving after their first meeting with Linda Mangano when they realized they had to go back inside because “we had not told her that lying to a federal agent is a crime.”
They explained the law to Mangano and told her “if she had anything she wanted to change . . . the time would be now,” Spence said. “She didn’t have anything to change.”
When Spence joined the investigation in August 2014, the target was Singh, Spence testified. But after reviewing material from the search warrant of his business that month, other leads developed, she said.
Questioned by Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman of Garden City, Spence said this trial was her first time testifying in court, and the Mangano case was the first white-collar criminal one in which she has been the lead agent.
Also Thursday, Spence testified that Venditto told investigators at the U.S. Attorney’s office on Dec. 18, 2015 that he — not Singh — always paid for the limo rides he took.
“He said that he paid for, as well as tipped,” Spence said, adding that he was asked multiple times.
“He was adamant,” she said.
Asked about his family members getting free limo rides from Singh, Venditto “initially he said no and if anybody in his family had, he would know about it,” Spence said.
Limo drivers earlier in the trial testified to chauffeuring Venditto and his inner circle and said they were paid by Singh’s company but Venditto and others did tip handsomely.
Both Linda Mangano and Venditto’s interviews with federal authorities were voluntary, Spence said.
They could have refused to talk, she said. They both were advised it was a crime to lie to a federal agent, she said.
Also on Thursday, prosecutors submitted as evidence Instagram photos from an account of Mangano’s son Sal, in which he shows off the $7,300 Panerai Luminor watch he received for his 21st birthday.
In one close-up shot of the watch, the son wrote: “I have the best parents in the world,” adding, “#lovemyparents.”
Singh testified that Edward Mangano gave him $2,500 and asked for a watch for Sal. Singh said he covered the remaining balance.
The bulk of Spence’s testimony centered on Linda Mangano.
Spence said she was trained in detecting deception.
“If someone’s lying to you, they have certain tells,” the special agent said. “ . . . fidgeting, excessive sweating.”
Spence, who has watched the trial run its course from a seat at the prosecution table, said she reviewed her notes of the interviews with Linda Mangano when she learned Wednesday that she would be taking the stand Thursday.
“This document in front of me is the lies that Linda Mangano told to me,” Spence said of a piece of paper in front of her.
She testified that she believed Mangano had made more than two dozen alleged false statements in all.
Carman asked how terminology that wasn’t in the handwritten notes of Spence’s partner made it into the report that Spence typed up after the agents first interviewed Mangano.
Spence said the report also was based on her observations from the meeting.
The notes were “not verbatim,” and she filled in some details, she said.
Several former Singh company employees testified earlier in the trial that they never saw Mangano and didn’t know she was a co-worker. Joseph Scalice, the former Water’s Edge manager whose emails were cited by Linda Mangano’s attorney, Carman, as proof of her work, had testified they collaborated on just two projects on which he did the majority of the work.
“It’s not a federal crime to give a person a job where they pay you a lot and you do little, is it?” Carman asked Spence.
“On its own, no,” Spence said.
There was no intent to trick Mangano into lying, Spence said.
“If she said she did nothing for Mr. Singh, we would have said, ‘OK. Why?’ And it would have flowed in that direction,” Spence said.
Carman asked if Spence was now aware that Mangano did some work.
“Bare, minimal,” Spence replied. “It depends on how you define ‘some.’ ” She agreed that Mangano did more than nothing.
Carman said after court was adjourned for the day: “Ninety-nine out of 100 Americans couldn’t have made it through eight hours of questions about what they do for a living without being charged with making a false statement.”