By Timothy Bolger, Rashed Mian and Christopher Twarowski
Two-term Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano remained defiant Thursday following his indictment on federal corruption charges including bribery, fraud and extortion, as he addressed reporters outside the Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse in Central Islip after posting $500,000 bail. He insisted that he would not step down as the county’s highest elected official, despite a growing chorus of elected officials asking him to do so.
“America’s the greatest country in the world, and I’ll have an opportunity when, at the proper time, to present my evidence that revokes, trumps any of this nonsense that I would ever do anything that sacrifices my oath of office,” he told the throng of journalists before joining his wife Linda, who was also charged by federal prosecutors, in an awaiting black SUV.
His words were jumbled with emotion.
“This was a 25-year-old friend. He was like a sister to my wife, a brother and a sister—it’s ridiculous, but I can’t say any more,” Mangano continued, flanked by his lawyers. “I’m going to tell you this: I’m going to continue to govern. I’m going to go to work. America’s the greatest country in the world. And you’ll all have an opportunity to hear everything and decide for yourselves.
“God bless you,” he concluded.
Federal agents arrested the Manganos as well as Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto Thursday morning. They indicted the trio on a slew of conspiracy charges including bribery, wire fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators about their participation in an alleged pay-to-play scheme involving a local businessman known in the 20-page indictment as “Co-Conspirator #1,” who was widely reported to be Harendra Singh, a Syosset-based restaurateur charged last year with fraud and bribing an Oyster Bay official.
All three have pleaded not guilty. They each face 20 years in prison if convicted.
Among the 13 counts against Mangano, federal investigators allege that between January 2010 and February 2015, he and Venditto received bribes and kickbacks from Singh in exchange for lucrative county contracts and the Town of Oyster Bay’s guaranteeing $20 million in bank loans in connection with Singh’s status as a town concessionaire.
In addition to hotel and travel expenses for the Manganos—ranging from exotic Caribbean trips to Turks and Caicos, St. Thomas and Florida’s Marco and Amelia islands, as well as to Niagara Falls—federal prosecutors allege those kickbacks included a more than $3,300 “ergonomic office chair;” a massage chair from Brookstone valued at more than $3,600; a $7,304 Panerai Luminor watch; new hardwood flooring in the Mangano’s bedroom; free meals; and a “no-show” job for Linda that paid her more than $450,000.
According to the federal charges, Venditto and his family members and associates were showered with free limousine rides and the use of Singh’s restaurants for fundraisers at discounted rates, as well as use of a basement conference room.
All three attempted to cover up their wrongdoing, authorities allege. Linda Mangano and Venditto have also been charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement.
Venditto’s Garden City-based attorney, Brian Griffin, made a brief statement to reporters on his client’s behalf:
“Mr. Venditto is clear that he is not guilty of these charges, and he intends to vigorously defend them,” Griffin told reporters, characterizing the allegations as “underwhelming.”
“Mr. Venditto has served the citizens of the Town of Oyster Bay for 40 years,” Griffin added. “He has done it with distinction. He has done it with diligence. And he has done it ethically. Nothing in this indictment today changes that.”
Should Mangano step down, the Nassau Legislature would have to vote on a replacement, a spokesperson for Republican Presiding Officer Norma L. Gonsalves told the Press.
Gonsalves, in a statement, said she and the legislature were “alarmed by the allegations, but must allow the legal process to play out.”
Mangano’s staunch defiance flies in the face of a growing chorus of other Long Island GOP lawmakers including state Senators Jack Martins, Carl Marcellino and Kemp Hannon who’ve been calling for both him and Venditto to resign, and local legislators to immediately begin the process of replacing them.
“The public process has to continue,” Martins told reporters at an impromptu joint press conference with Marcellino and Hannon outside Nassau Legislature headquarters in Mineola Thursday morning. Martins is in a tough race with former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, to succeed Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), who decided not to run again.
“The people come first,” added Marcellino, who is facing Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman Jim Gaughran, a Democrat, on the Nov. 8 ballot.
“Their alleged actions, if proven true, are a betrayal of the public trust and further shake our trust in government,” Nassau Comptroller George Maragos said in a statement. “Given the nature of the charges, it would be in the best interest of the County if both would resign in order to allow the people’s work to be conducted with unquestionable integrity.”
Maragos has recently switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat so he could run for Nassau County executive.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said during a press conference that Democrats won’t be calling for Mangano to resign just yet. Instead, he reiterated calls for Republicans to join their colleagues in appointing an independent inspector general to oversee Nassau’s troubled contracting system.
“Today is not a good day for the Nassau County taxpayer,” Abrahams told reporters. “It’s not a good day for the institution of Nassau. It’s not a good day for the majority, minority caucus and obviously not a good day for the county executive.”
Nassau Republican Party boss Joe Mondello declined to comment late Thursday.