This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
Jurors are set to begin deliberations Friday morning in the federal corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.
Prosecutors on Thursday afternoon wrapped up 10 weeks of testimony and arguments in Central Islip, where they sought to make the case that the one-time elected officials accepted an illegal stream of benefits from restaurateur Harendra Singh and, in exchange, abused their public positions to get him two county contracts and more than $20 million in town-guaranteed loans.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile said that Singh over the years was a “partner in crime” to Mangano and Venditto and that “corruption, power and greed” drove the trio.
She rejected defense attorneys’ assertions that Singh told lies as a prosecution witness to save himself from prison.
“He’s not our guy; he’s their guy,” Mirabile said.
Mangano had a close friendship with Singh that spanned 25 years and Venditto kept Singh on as a town concessionaire for decades, the prosecutor noted.
Mirabile in her rebuttal pushed back on closing arguments by lawyers for the Manganos and Venditto who called Singh a “sociopath” and a “liar.”
As she spoke, a photograph of Edward Mangano and Singh posing together in the waters of the Turks and Caicos was projected onto a large screen before the jury.
“The sociopath liar is on vacation with this guy!” Mirabile exclaimed, pointing to Mangano at the defense table.
Earlier Thursday, Venditto’s defense attorney, Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, finished his closing argument.
He asked that jurors bear in mind three “silver bullets” that drove holes into prosecutors’ case, including the forging of Venditto’s signature on the paperwork for one of Singh’s town-guaranteed loans.
“John Venditto is innocent,” Agnifilo said. “He is innocent. We’re not hiding behind a burden of proof. He is innocent.”
On Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Joan M. Azrack spent more than two hours giving instructions to the jury, reading aloud from 54 pages explaining the law and how jurors should go about considering each charge the defendants face.
Singh, who testified in the first four weeks of the trial, said his bribes to Mangano and Venditto included free vacations for the Mangano family, a no-show job for Linda Mangano that paid $450,000 and free limousine services for Venditto and his inner circle.
Edward Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, face numerous charges that include federal program bribery and honest-services wire fraud.
Mangano also is fighting extortion and conspiracy to obstruct justice charges, and Venditto additionally is charged with securities fraud and 19 counts of wire fraud related to securities offerings.
Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and three counts of making false statements to the FBI.
They have pleaded not guilty.
After court Thursday, Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman of Garden City, said his client has “shown strength for her husband and for her family through this.” He said he hoped for a “conscientious and thoughtful deliberation.”
Kevin Keating of Garden City, who represents Edward Mangano, expressed confidence in a favorable outcome and said his client “believes in the system.”
Venditto’s lawyer, Agnifilo, said his client is “strong and confident and hopeful” and added that as jury deliberations start: “It’s in God’s hands.”
Earlier Thursday in court, Mirabile argued to jurors that defense attorneys called Singh a liar but nevertheless quoted him when it helped their case.
Keating said Singh “lied every single day of his life,” but the lawyer underscored a conversation secretly captured on an FBI body wire in March 2015 in which Singh says he received “nothing, nothing” from Mangano, Mirabile said.
“You can’t have it both ways,” she said.
Mirabile said that the other 59 witnesses and evidence that included phone records, emails and credit card statements corroborated what Singh described of his alleged quid pro quo relationship with Mangano and Venditto.
Defense attorneys stressed that Singh and former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei made cooperation agreements, and other witnesses had immunity or nonprosecution deals, Mirabile said. But there were four dozen who didn’t have any agreement with the government, she said.
Before Mirabile delivered her rebuttal, Agnifilo in his closing argument described the three “silver bullets” that he said should lead to his client’s exoneration:
- Singh and Mei switched out pages of a $2 million Oyster Bay-guaranteed loan agreement that Venditto had signed for ones approving a $3.4 million deal, Agnifilo said.
- The pair forged Venditto’s signature on paperwork for another town-backed loan for Singh, Agnifilo said.
- And Singh met with Venditto on Aug. 9, 2011 — around the time Singh secured his third and fourth town-guaranteed loans — but did not discuss the loans with the supervisor, Agnifilo said.
The defense attorney said the three points are proof of innocence that will prove “fatal” to prosecutors’ case.
“It’s fatal,” he said. “It’s game over. Venditto is not involved.”
He also sought to cast doubt on the credibility of the testimony from Singh and former deputy town supervisor Leonard Genova, who has immunity.
“Len Genova and Harendra Singh turned on their best friends out of fear,” Agnifilo said. “It makes you say things out of desperation that really aren’t true.”
Agnifilo said the government had not produced evidence to prove that what Venditto accepted from Singh were bribes.
He then addressed the former town supervisor’s securities fraud charges, saying every investor who bought Town of Oyster Bay bonds made money. “Nobody lost a dime,” he said.
Bond investors would have liked for the town to disclose the loans it backed for Singh, but Venditto didn’t know about them himself until 2015, Agnifilo said.
The third and fourth loans to Singh were signed by Genova and kept from Venditto, Agnifilo said.
The first line of credit to Singh was paid off, so there was nothing to disclose, Agnifilo said. And the second loan was secretly amended by Mei, he said.
“You can’t disclose something you don’t know about,” Agnifilo said.