CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — The man who runs the sixth most populous county in New York, his wife, and the man who runs Long Island's largest town all face a long legal fight and the possibility of up to 20 years in prison. They're accused of taking bribes and kickbacks from a millionaire businessman in a case that could lead to implications for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Ed Mangano, the Nassau County executive, 54, his wife, Linda, 54, and John Venditto, 66, the supervisor of the Town of Oyster Bay each got $500,000 bail posted on their behalf by family members Thursday afternoon.
It was a strong contrast to how they all were early Thursday morning. Around sunrise, the Manganos walked out of their home in Bethpage, calmly, in spite of the nearly two dozen camera crews and reporters waiting for them with questions.
The county executive even paused for a moment and spoke. "I'll make a statement to the press later today," Mangano said as he got into his car.
He and his wife, along with part of their legal team, emerged from that vehicle at the FBI office in Melville, where they turned themselves in.
After about two hours of processing, they emerged, but this time in handcuffs. One by one, they were loaded into cars by FBI agents and transported to federal court in Central Islip, 13 miles away, to stand before a judge.
Before that happened, however, the U.S. attorney explained the indictment in a news conference.
He said that the bribery, conspiracy, extortion, obstruction and other felony charges were in relation to a scheme the Manganos and Venditto had worked up with a fourth person, referred to in the indictment only as Co-defendant #1.
While prosecutors would not identify him, it's an open secret that local millionaire restaurateur Harendra Singh was arrested last year in relation to this investigation.
U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said that among the crimes in which Ed Mangano and Venditto engaged were securing contracts for food services totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for co-defendant #1, Singh, as well as guaranteeing loans to him totaling more than $20 million.
Singh paid back big in return, according to the indictment. He provided a no-show job for Linda Mangano that paid her about $450,000 over three years for duties she allegedly made up.
"I can tell you," said U.S. Attorney Capers, "that one of the responsibilities that she claimed that she had was 'food taster,' and other things."
Capers said that the restaurateur also let the politicos use one of his eateries as a campaign fundraising venue for free. In addition, Singh gave them big ticket gifts, including a $3,600 Brookstone massage chair, a $7,400 Panerai Luminor watch and a $3,400 ergonomic office chair.
Singh also provided all expenses paid vacations to Niagara Falls; Marco Island, Florida; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Turks and Caicos Islands and Amelia Island, Florida.
"Now folks, sadly, we're being confronted with public officials who are alleged to have abused their positions of trust," said Capers. "In this case," he continued, "[it's] the highest ranking official in Nassau County and in the Town of Oyster Bay, for their own corrupt benefit."
After pleading not guilty before a judge and posting bail, the Manganos and Venditto left court.
Venditto said nothing, but Ed Mangano made that press statement he'd promised at the beginning of the day.
"America is the greatest country in the world," he began, "and I'll have an opportunity when, at the proper time, to present my evidence that rebuts any of this nonsense that I would ever do anything that sacrifices my oath of office."
"It’s ridiculous, but I can’t say anymore," Mangano continued. "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 have an opportunity to hear everything and decide for yourselves."
About 90 minutes after he made that statement, a group of Democratic members of the Nassau County legislature called for Mangano to resign. Their news conference came hours after another one, by a group of Republican elected officials, that also called for Mangano's resignation. Mangano is a Republican.
The U.S. attorney said that this is an ongoing investigation, that could expand and lead to further arrests. It is a known fact, as first reported by the New York Times, that Singh is cooperating with federal investigators regarding a probe into possible illegal campaign fundraising by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Singh had been in talks with the De Blasio Administration about the more than $1 million in unpaid rent he'd owed on a restaurant he operated in Queens, called The Water's Edge, when he was arrested by federal agents last year.
Singh and his family were also major donors to the Bill De Blasio election campaign.