MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his attorney said they planned to “continue to fight,” after Mangano was slammed with charges in a federal corruption probe.
“America’s the greatest country in the world and I have an opportunity, when at the proper time, to present my evidence that rebukes any of this nonsense that I would ever do anything that sacrifices my oath of office,” Mangano said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. “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 anymore.”
“I’m gonna tell you this, I’m gonna continue to govern, I’m gonna go to work,” Mangano added. “America’s the greatest country in the world and you’ll all have an opportunity to hear everything and decide for yourself.”
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, prosecutors said it goes far beyond gifts between friends. The FBI called corruption it’s number one priority.
“It wastes billions of your hard earned tax dollars,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr., said.
The charges sent a seismic jolt through the Long Island on Thursday.
A 13-count indictment names Mangano, 54, as well as his wife Linda Mangano and Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.
It charges Mangano and Venditto with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services fraud, as well as the related substantive counts, and charges Mangano with extortion.
“Mr. Venditto has served the citizens of the Town of Oyster Bay for 40 years,” Brian Giffin, Venditto’s lawyer, said. “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.”
All three have pleaded not guilty.
“With this indictment, we again send a clear message that no one is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers said at a news conference.
In a statement, Sweeney Jr. said Mangano and Venditto “abused their positions as the highest ranking elected officials in Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay, respectively – at least, until today.”
Mangano and his wife surrendered to federal officials earlier Thursday morning and were seen being escorted from their Bethpage home.
They were then later seen arriving at FBI headquarters in Melville, along with their attorney.
The indictment alleges that Mangano and Venditto engaged in a scheme to receive bribes and kickbacks from a businessman and restaurateur.
Capers said in exchange, the businessman allegedly received loans and “lucrative contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide food services to various Nassau County agencies.”
“Mr. Mangano and Mr. Venditto received bribes and kickbacks from their co-conspirator on an on-demand basis or as opportunities arose in connection with business dealings in Nassau County and in the town of Oyster Bay,” Capers said.
According to the indictment, some of the gifts included paid hotel and travel expenses for the Mangano family to places like St. Thomas and Turks and Caicos, an “ergonomic office chair” valued at $3,371, a $3,623 massage chair from Brookstone and a Panerai Luminor watch worth $7,304.
Mangano also received free meals for him, his family and associates and had hardwood flooring installed in his bedroom, according to the indictment.
The feds also allege Linda Mangano “received a lucrative no-show job” at a restaurant owned by the businessman and was paid more than $450,000.
“One of the responsibilities that she claimed that she had was ‘food taster,'” Capers said.
The businessman also allegedly gave Venditto and his family and associates free limousine service and allowed Venditto to hold fundraisers at his restaurants at a discounted rate, according to court papers.
Venditto is alleged to have guaranteed millions in loans to the businessman, but when two went into the default, the town was on the hook, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.
The restaurant owner is not named, but questions have been swirling for months about whether indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh lavished Mangano with free meals and vacations in exchange for political favors, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
Singh was arrested last year on a number of charges, including bribery, and has pleaded not guilty. Mangano has denied the allegations.
“My priority is to provide Harendra Singh with the most powerful legal defense possible and to continue to fight for him, regardless of who else is charged in this investigation,” Tony LaPinta, Singh’s attorney said in a statement Thursday.
The indictment also charges the Manganos and Venditto with obstructing justice and Linda Mangano and Venditto with making false statements in connection with their alleged attempts to cover up the scheme, Capers said.
“When confronted with their conduct, the Manganos and Mr. Venditto obstructed justice in an attempt to cover up their criminal behavior and Linda Mangano and John Venditto lied to federal agents when questioned about these actions,” he said.
The U.S. attorney called the alleged crimes sad, saying it abuses the public’s trust, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
“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,” Capers said.
Long Island State Sen. Jack Martins is among those now calling for Mangano and Venditto to resign.
“There is zero tolerance when it comes to corruption, there is zero tolerance when it comes to standing up for the tax payers and residents of Nassau County,” he said.
Authorities said federal agents also executed two search and seizure warrants at the Manganos’ home and at the county executive’s office in Mineola.
Some lawmakers are calling on the Nassau legislature and Oyster Bay town council to appoint interim managers to fill executive roles to allow county and town business to proceed, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirnachs reported.
Sen. Carl Marcellino said it’s necessary.
“The people come first, the people before politics,” he said. “The government has to move on.”
On Wednesday, the county executive’s spokesman called earlier reports of a pending arrest “nonsense” and “a rumor mill.”
“County Executive Mangano has the highest integrity, has done nothing wrong, has not been contacted and the accusations are preposterous,” said spokesman Brian Nevin.
Brian Griffin, Venditto’s attorney, declined to comment.
Mangano is a two-term Republican who was first elected in 2009.
If convicted, Mangano and Venditto each face up to 20 years in prison for each honest services wire fraud charge, up to 10 years in prison for the federal program bribery charge and up to five years for the conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.
Mangano also faces up to 20 years for the extortion charge, if convicted.
In addition, if convicted, the Manganos and Venditto all each face up to 20 years for each obstruction of justice charge and up to five years for each false statement charge.
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