Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano remained defiant after allegations of bribery and fraud were unearthed last week, while Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto laid low to contemplate the town’s best interests.
Mangano, his wife, Linda, and Venditto were arrested Thursday in connection with a 13-count federal indictment on charges including conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud. The county executive charged that the allegations demonstrate “a clear lack of connection to the actual facts.”
In a statement, Mangano said, “In time, the truth will prove I did nothing wrong. As county executive, I am enormously proud of my record. I believe that there is much more work to be done as Nassau County executive and I fully intend to continue my work for the betterment of our residents. America is the greatest nation in the world. I ask residents to have faith in my integrity and to put their full belief in the presumption of innocence—an innocence which will be established in open court.”
Meanwhile, Venditto’s spokesperson Marta Kane said, “[the supervisor] is thinking about the events and how they impact his ability to go forward as town supervisor, the highest priority being the welfare of the town and its residents.”
The unsealed indictment charges that Mangano, 54, the highest-ranking elected official in the county, traded favors to a wealthy Long Island restaurateur in exchange for free vacations, meals and gifts, including a massage chair and hardwood floors. While the restaurateur is not named in the indictment, sources say it is likely Harendra Singh, who was arrested last year in connection with a multimillion dollar fraud and bribery scheme.
Mangano’s wife, Linda, 54, was also named in the indictment, which states that she was paid more than $450,000 by the unnamed businessman for a no-show job at a restaurant from April 2010 to August 2014. Venditto, 67, was named in the scheme to receive bribes and kickbacks in exchange for official actions beneficial to the restaurateur.
Official actions included the guarantee of four loans totaling about $20 million for the restaurateur, as well as contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers said at a press conference.
“Yet again, we announce a breach of trust by two of our public officials,” said Capers. “In 2010, Nassau County voters granted Edward Mangano the opportunity to serve by electing him their highest ranking official in the county. Similarly, in 1998, Town of Oyster Bay voters granted John Venditto the honor of electing him their chief elected official. Yet, as alleged in the indictment, both of these men undermined the very system of laws they promised to uphold by furthering their personal interests rather than the best interests of their constituents. Sadly, Mangano also enlisted the assistance of his wife in an attempt to shield his wrongdoing from public scrutiny. However, no one is above the law and the defendants will now be held to account for their actions.”
Mangano’s lawyer, Kevin Keating of Garden City, denounced any allegations that the county executive was involved in a scheme to procure contracts or benefits for the unnamed restaurateur.
“The indictment is utterly devoid of any coherent allegation that Mr. Mangano engaged in any official action for Mr. Singh—as he did not,” Keating said in a statement. “These charges will be vigorously defended as Mr. Mangano continues to serve the county.”
The indictment further alleged that the Manganos and Venditto engaged in obstruction of justice in connection with their attempts to cover up their wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Linda Mangano and Venditto are also charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement authorities on multiple occasions.
If convicted, Ed Mangano and Venditto each face as many as 20 years in prison if they are convicted of honest services wire fraud, as many as 10 years for the bribery charge and as many as five years for the conspiracy to commit federal bribery. In addition, Ed Mangano faces as many as 20 years for the extortion charge and/or the obstruction of justice charge. The Manganos and Venditto also each face as many as 20 years in prison and five years each for the false statement charge.
The arrests of these two prominent Long Island Republicans could have dramatic repercussions on Election Day as Democrats seek to wrestle away control of the state Senate. In a statement, Senate Democratic spokesman Michael Murphy said the indictments illustrate how “the Nassau Republican machine has done enormous damage to the residents, businesses and taxpayers of Long Island.”
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans held their own press conference on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive Building in Mineola, calling for Mangano and Venditto to resign from office.
“When something like this happens, it is incumbent on leadership to move quickly to transition to new leadership,” said Senator Jack M. Martins. “The public process has to continue. The taxpayers and residents of Nassau County [must] continue to have confidence in government and understand that [public] services will continue to be provided. Government will continue to move forward, and the issues that are important to the [public] are at the fore, and [government] cannot continue to be distracted in the exercise of [its] responsibilities.”
—Additional reporting by Joseph Catrone and Frank Rizzo