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Power on Trial: ‘Keys to the county’

Leonard Genova, former Oyster Bay official, testified Tuesday that restaurateur Harendra Singh had wide political influence.

Linda and Edward Mangano arrive at the federal

Linda and Edward Mangano arrive at the federal courthouse in Central Islip on Tuesday. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Key ring

Kevin Keating, defense attorney for former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, got his first crack Tuesday at former Oyster Bay Deputy Supervisor Leonard Genova during the federal corruption trial of Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.

Keating asked Genova, a prosecution witness, whether he would agree that former restaurateur Harendra Singh “had the keys to the town” of Oyster Bay.

“He didn’t just have the keys to the town, but to the county,” Genova replied.

Genova went on to note that Singh had contacts among an array of judges, police and political figures — in Suffolk as well as Nassau County.

“I would say he had the keys to Long Island,” Genova summed up.

Reservation please

“Did you rely on Harendra Singh when you needed something?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile asked Genova Tuesday.

“Yes,” Genova answered, saying Singh paid for meals and limousine service for himself and family members. Genova also said the former restaurateur gave him a discount on events he held for then-Oyster Bay Town attorney’s sports charity group.

Genova said he also would call in for reservations — when none were needed — at one Singh restaurant on the town beach.

The reservation was code. “I’m calling to say, ‘Can I get a free meal,’ ” he testified. “< . . . I would like not to get a check or at least a severely discounted check.”

Looking back, Genova testified, “I did it because I wanted to be treated a certain way.”

“I wanted to get that preferential treatment.”

Under questioning from Mirabile, Genova said the gifts he received from Singh were bribes — and that, in return, Singh himself would get preferential treatment.

Satellite offices

Genova testified that Venditto held government-related meetings in places other than Oyster Bay’s two town halls.

One spot was a basement conference room at Singh’s H.R. Singletons restaurant in Bethpage, which Genova and other witnesses said Singh built for Venditto, so the then-supervisor would not bother other patrons by smoking.

“Sometimes we would use it for government meetings,” Genova testified Tuesday.

Another popular place, Genova said, was Venditto campaign headquarters in North Massapequa.

“It was very convenient for him because it was right down the street from his home,” Genova testified.

Genova said working out of the campaign office offered advantages for Venditto, and for himself as well, because at town hall there were so many people vying for the officials’ attention.

“If you are at town hall,” Genova testified, “your ability to work is impaired.”

Sign off

On Monday, Genova had testified that he never read town documents forwarded for him to sign before affixing his signature. He said he received too many, and relied on the representation of other town officials that the documents were OK.

On Tuesday, Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s attorney, returned to the topic of Genova’s document-reading habits.

Under cross examination, Genova said once again that as a matter of policy he did not read town documents forwarded for his signature — including those related to Singh’s loans, or financial documents used by the town for bond offerings.

With that, Agnifilo asked whether Genova had discussions with Venditto about one of the final Singh loans, and, later about why the loans had not been included in the town’s financial documents.

“You didn’t have any discussion with the supervisor about this written agreement,” Agnifilo asked, referring to one of Singh’s later loans.

“That is fair to say,” Genova answered.

Ethics challenge

On Tuesday, Genova acknowledged being on the town ethics board.

But, he testified, the board neither met nor did the basic job of reviewing officials’ financial disclosure forms to determine whether there were conflicts.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said.

In 2015, Venditto said during a town board meeting that a complaint against Frederick Ippolito, the town’s then-planning and development commissioner who had been charged with federal income tax evasion, had been turned over to the ethics board.

“They’re examining the complaint,” Venditto said, according to a Newsday report.

Venditto and Genova declined, in an interview with Newsday after the meeting, to say whether the town code’s conflict of interest provisions applied in Ippolito’s case.

In 2016, Ippolito was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to tax-related charges. His conviction was vacated a year later, after Ippolito died in prison while his case was on appeal.

The complaint to the ethics board had been filed by Robert Ripp, an Oyster Bay resident who later ran unsuccessfully for town supervisor.

Ripp was in the courtroom Tuesday, taking notes during Genova’s testimony.

Name Game

Genova at one point was asked to name public and political officials who asked other public or political officials for jobs.

One was Joseph Mondello, Nassau’s Republican Party chairman, who, Genova said, recommended candidates for jobs in Oyster Bay.

Another was Joseph Nocella, now the town attorney.

Nocella was sitting in the courtroom’s spectator seats when his name was mentioned.

He’s been following the trial daily as the town’s legal representative.

Cough drop

At one point, Genova began to cough.

“We should have some lozenges here,” U.S. District Court Judge Joan M. Azrack said.

“It’s a two-month trial,” Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s attorney, who was cross-examining Genova quipped, “we don’t have anything.”

“We have lozenges,” someone from the defense table chimed in.

None were necessary.

Genova said he had taken a drink of water.

“It went down the wrong pipe,” he said.

Early to rise

Court began a half-hour earlier beginning Tuesday — and will go to five days instead of four next week — as the trial that was supposed to last six to eight weeks is expected to go to longer.

Perhaps it was the early start. Or maybe it was the testimony. Or maybe even that the courtroom, which was more crowded than usual.

But as the day wore on, a few jurors — and spectators — appeared to be fighting the urge to nap.

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