By Timothy Bolger, Rashed Mian & Christopher Twarowski
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, his wife Linda, and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto were indicted on federal corruption charges for an alleged bribery scheme, fraud, extortion and lying to investigators.
Prosecutors unsealed the 13-count indictment shortly before the trio was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at Central Islip federal court. Authorities allege Ed Mangano and Venditto conspired between 2010 and last year to use their power to back loans for and award contracts to a businessman, who in turn gave them kickbacks and a $450,000 no-show job for Linda. All three have pleaded not guilty.
“Sady, we’re again confronted with public officials who have allegedly abused their positions of trust, in this case, the highest-ranking elected official in Nassau County, and in the Town of Oyster Bay, for their own corrupt benefit,” Robert Capers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, told reporters during a news conference.
Prosecutors did not identify the businessman—described in court documents as a co-conspirator—whose bribes were allegedly solicited, but he was widely reported to be Harendra Singh, the Syosset-based restaurateur charged last year with fraud and bribing an Oyster Bay official.
The county executive and town supervisor helped the co-conspirator have Oyster Bay back four loans worth a combined $20 million used to perform capital improvements to his restaurants—money used to renovate both eateries that the co-conspirator was contracted to run in town parks and his own private businesses, Capers said. The co-conspirator defaulted on the last two loans, prosecutors said.
In a separate alleged scheme, the county executive awarded the co-conspirator a $200,000 contract to provide food for the Office of Emergency Management in the two months after Sandy, authorities said.
In exchange for the loans and contract, the co-conspirator gave Linda a “no-show” job from ’10 to ’14 at one of his restaurants, paid for various hotel and travel expenses as well as a new wood floor in his bedroom, and gave him free meal, a massage chair and a Panerai Luminor watch worth $7,304, prosecutors said. The co-conspirator also gave Venditto free limousine rides, discounted catering service for campaign fundraisers and use of a conference room at one of his restaurants, authorities said.
Later, the Manganos and Venditto all made false statements to investigators looking into the scheme, prosecutors said.
All three face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
Earlier Thursday, Long Island Republican state Senators Jack Martins, Carl Marcellino and Kemp Hannon, outside the Nassau County Legislature in Mineola, called for Mangano and Venditto’s resignation, urging legislators and the Oyster Bay Town Board to immediately begin the process to replace them. Martins, who’s currently running for U.S. Congress, said he didn’t speak with local GOP leadership prior to the senators’ impromptu press conference, stressing that it was important government work continue “undistracted.”
Nassau Republican Party boss Joe Mondello did not return a request for comment as of press time. His counterpart, Democratic Committee Chair Jay Jacobs, issued a statement characterizing Thursday as “a sad day for Nassau County and a sad day for Ed Mangano, John Venditto and their families,” adding that if true, the allegations “represent a great widespread betrayal of the voters’ trust. Regardless of the legal outcome, there can no longer be any doubt that ‘business as usual’ in Nassau County politics and government must come to an end. The public’s demand for honest, credible and effective government requires it.”
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, whose office began investigating the county’s contract awarding system after disgraced ex-State Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican, was arrested on corruption charges, said in a statement that reform throughout the current county administration has been a long time coming.
“More than a year ago, I said that Nassau’s archaic financial and oversight practices were a recipe for corruption and I proposed comprehensive reforms that the Legislature and County Executive have stonewalled,” she said. “Today’s charges and our investigations underscore the importance of passing strict ethics and oversight reforms to protect taxpayers, and I renew my call for immediate action to drain this cesspool of corruption and restore confidence in the integrity of our government.”
Nassau Presiding Officer Norma L. Gonsalves, a Republican, in a statement, said she and the legislature were “alarmed by the allegations, but must allow the legal process to play out. In the meantime, it is our mission to ensure that the operations of County government are unaffected and that we continue to provide the services our residents expect and deserve.”
Main Art: Not Smiling Anymore: Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto (L), Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano (R), and his wife Linda (Not Pictured) were arrested Thursday, October 20, 2016 and indicted on federal corrupution charges including a bribery scheme, obstruction of justice and extortion. (Long Island Press / Christopher Twarowski)