The prosecution could rest its case as early as Monday morning in the federal political corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, now in its 10th week. Closing arguments could begin later that day.
Mangano and Venditto are accused of taking bribes from restaurateur and Oyster Bay concessionaire Harendra Singh in exchange for helping him secure a pair of county contracts and more than $20 million in town-guaranteed loans.
Also on trial is Mangano’s wife, Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, who is accused of lying to federal authorities about what they allege was her $450,000 no-show job at Singh’s restaurants. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
Edward Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, have pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services wire fraud, extortion for Mangano and securities fraud for Venditto.
Once prosecutors Catherine Mirabile, Raymond Tierney and Lara Treinis Gatz rest their case, it’s the defense’s turn.
But Venditto’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, is the only defense lawyer who has indicated he may produce witnesses.
Edward Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, and Linda Mangano’s lawyer, John Carman of Garden City, both said late last week they had no plans to call any witnesses to testify.
Also, last week Agnifilo filed a motion asking the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing that hypothetical questions that prosecutors asked a bond investor and an outside town auditor were designed to unfairly prejudice his client.
In a ruling Friday night, U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack rejected the motion, finding that while some of the questions and answers were either inappropriate or “potentially inappropriate,” they and others like them would be barred from jury deliberations.
Earlier Friday, Azrack had indicated that lawyers should be prepared to deliver their closing arguments as early as Monday afternoon. Once closings are over, the jury will receive instructions from Azrack and begin their deliberations.
The trial began March 12 at the Alfonse D’Amato U.S. Courthouse in Central Islip with jury selection. Singh, the star witness, spent 13 days on the witness stand.
Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, pleaded guilty in 2016 to charges that he bribed Edward Mangano with gifts that included free vacations for the Mangano family, Linda Mangano’s no-show job and free meals in order to receive county contracts. Singh also pleaded guilty to bribing Venditto with free limousine rides for the supervisor and various family members. Singh is awaiting sentencing.
The defense lawyers have contended that Singh lied about bribing Edward Mangano and Venditto, in an attempt to cut a deal with prosecutors and his testimony was aimed at getting a lenient sentence.
Linda Mangano’s lawyer has attempted to show his client did some work for Singh and that statements she made about the work she performed, which the government alleges are lies, could be interpreted as the truth.
Over the course of the trial, the jury heard from dozens of witnesses, including Singh restaurant employees, limousine drivers, financial experts and FBI agents.
Other witnesses included county and town employees, including Leonard Genova, the former deputy supervisor and town attorney, and Frederick Mei, a former deputy town attorney.
Genova, 54, of Massapequa Park, received immunity from charges in exchange for his testimony.
Mei, 58, of Bayville, pleaded guilty in 2015 to honest-services fraud for accepting bribes from Singh, who gave him $50,000 in checks made out to cash, trips to South Korea and Italy and cash payments for a $36,000 BMW lease. Mei also is awaiting sentencing.
The jury also heard a pair of phone conversations between Mei, who wore a body wire for the FBI, and Singh, during which Singh said he got “nothing, nothing” in exchange for giving Linda Mangano a job. The FBI also wiretapped Singh’s phone and prosecutors played a phone call between Singh and a retired Nassau police detective, in which Singh says if he tells the government anything about politicians, it will be “all lies.”
Singh testified that he wasn’t being honest in his conversations at the time.
Late last week, former county and town contractor Anthony Gulino testified that he gave Edward Mangano $3,600 in cash in 2012 to ensure the then-county executive would “take care” of any problems that might arise.
“I wanted to do something for Ed and of course to benefit myself,” said Gulino, 54, of Ridge.