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Mangano convictions a rebuke to politics for personal profit

Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, with his

Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, with his wife, Linda Mangano, react to guilty verdicts outside federal court Friday in Central Islip. Credit: James Carbone

The federal convictions of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda Mangano, put an official seal on what had already become obvious: the ordinary method of conducting business for the political GOP machine in Oyster Bay was rotten, shot through with corruption, self-dealing and entitlement.

Jurors found Friday that Edward Mangano was a key player in a conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud and obstruct justice. His wife was convicted of obstruction of justice and two counts of lying to the FBI during an interview where her lawyer was present.

The convictions stem from actions Edward Mangano took to influence the Town of Oyster Bay to illegally guarantee $20 million in loans to restaurateur Harendra Singh. Singh had lucrative concession contracts with the town but was having trouble keeping his businesses afloat. In return for the loan guarantees, the Manganos received a $450,000 no-show job for Linda Mangano with Singh’s company, free flooring, nice vacations, meals and an expensive watch.

This was the second trial for the pair after a jury last year could not reach a decision on the Manganos but acquitted former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto. Attorneys for the Manganos promised appeals, and there are some legal precedents that would support their arguments. But the staggering evidence of this culture of corruption exposed during the two trials could never be erased by a hung jury or a reversal. The FBI and federal prosecutors in the Eastern District deserve credit for their doggedness in showing how these schemes siphon taxpayer dollars to line private pockets.

After he left the courthouse, Edward Mangano defended himself. “I’m very proud of my service as county executive,” he said. But it was themselves that Mangano and his pals served, and not just in their dealings with Singh:

  • From 2011 to 2015, Nassau issued 401 no-bid contracts for just less than $25,000, avoiding the need for legislative approval or a bidding process. About $10 million frequently went to political pals, often for work that did not need to be done or was not done.
  • Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos politically manipulated a $12 million Nassau contract to help his son, Adam, landing the pair in prison.
  • Venditto is set to be tried on state charges that he participated in an Oyster Bay conspiracy to accept bribes from the owners of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc., a town and Nassau County contractor, along with four other Republican politicos. Town Planning and Development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito, now deceased, was convicted of tax evasion for not declaring millions of dollars in income the Lizzas paid him as he steered town paving work to them and took a town paycheck for doing so.
  • Mangano’s former chief deputy county executive, Rob Walker, goes to federal trial next month, accused of taking $5,000 in cash from an unidentified Nassau County contractor.

Over the course of the two Mangano trials, Singh, former Town of Oyster Bay attorney Leonard Genova, who received immunity to testify, and former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei, who pleaded guilty to honest services fraud, led a barrage of prosecution witnesses. Together they laid out a pattern of corruption and influence peddling in the governments of both Nassau County and Oyster Bay that was simply a way of life. That’s not unique to Nassau or Democrats, as the corruption conviction of former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and dozens of other Democratic officials shows.

And it’s as old as governance itself.

Public servants are entitled to only their paychecks. The politically connected are entitled to nothing more than a vote. Exchanging anything else is usually criminal, and always wrong.