A “job” as a food taster as a restaurant that paid $100,000 a year. The gift of a $7,000 watch. Free meals and subsidized tropical vacations. Thousands of dollars worth of limousine rides.
The fall of one of the latest elected officials in Nassau County’s legendary postwar suburban political machine was paved with freebies, no-show jobs and bribes.
On Friday, the former Nassau County executive, Edward P. Mangano, and his wife, Linda, were convicted of federal corruption charges after a second trial, becoming the most recent Republican power brokers in a party that once had a viselike control on Long Island to get knocked out of public service for graft.
The jury found him guilty of most of the charges against him, including bribery and wire fraud. He was acquitted on one count of extortion. His wife was found guilty on four counts, including making false statements and obstruction of justice.
As the foreperson declared Mr. Mangano guilty of the first count — conspiring to commit federal program bribery — the defendant threw his hands up and Ms. Mangano brought her forehead to her clasped hands. As the foreman pronounced Ms. Mangano guilty a minute later, she put her head between her forearms on the table, as Mr. Mangano wrapped his arm around her.
Mr. Mangano was indicted in 2016 on charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy, along with the Oyster Bay town supervisor, John Venditto. The county executive was also charged with extortion, and prosecutors charged his wife, Linda Mangano, with obstruction of justice and making false statements.
“For Ed Mangano, public service was self-service,” the lead prosecutor, Catherine Mirabile, said during closing arguments at the latest trial. “From the moment he took office, he cashed in the power to benefit himself and his wife.”
That assessment could have been made for many members of the Nassau County Republican machine in recent years, as corruption scandals have picked off its leaders, who time and time again have been shown in courtrooms to have peddled their influence to line their pockets, violating the law.
It is a group that once wielded extraordinary influence and had a lock on elected offices for decades. But a culture of corruption has eviscerated Republican control of the county, and each new conviction has helped shift more power to Democrats, political strategists said.
“When you are as powerful an electoral majority as the Nassau Republicans used to be, you tend to get a little arrogant, and you tend to believe that you can do things and not get caught,” said Steve Israel, a former Democratic congressman representing Long Island. “That has clearly caught up with the Republican machine in Nassau.”
Today, Laura Curran, a Democrat, holds Mr. Mangano’s former position, and Democrats now make up a majority of party-affiliated voters in a county that once was the apogee of Republican control of America’s suburbs.
Last November, Long Island was credited with returning the State Senate to the Democrats for the first time in decades, and Nassau County was pivotal in that effort, electing Democrats to three seats formerly held by Republicans.
Part of the change is demographic. Lawrence Levy, the executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said an influx of younger, minority and immigrant residents is one reason the city’s suburbs, once strongholds of Republican power, have begun to wobble, a trend that he said bears out countrywide.
“Between demographic changes and ideological shifts, more and more suburban voters began pulling the lever for Democrats,” he said.
Trump’s election and the shift of the national Republican Party to a more populist base, has also weakened the party in Nassau County, where the mostly middle-class population tends to be more moderate on social issues, he said, and, as a coastal region, is deeply concerned about environmental issues.
But Republican corruption scandals have certainly contributed to the party’s decline. Dean G. Skelos, a Nassau Republican who rose to become the majority leader in the State Senate, was convicted on federal corruption charges last year. A jury found he had used his political clout to aid a company that had funneled money to his son, Adam, who was also convicted in the scheme. They are both in prison.
At the Manganos’ first trial, Richard Walker, the former Deputy County executive, testified. Last year, federal prosecutors charged Mr. Walker with obstruction of justice and with lying to the F.B.I., alleging he tried to hide a $5,000 payment from a contractor. Mr. Walker, who is known as Rob, was Mr. Mangano’s top aide.
Other Nassau Republicans facing criminal charges include Edward Ambrosino, a Hempstead Town Board councilman accused of evading taxes on $250,000 of income, much of which he had earned as a lawyer for county authorities.
Frederick Ippolito, an Oyster Bay town official, pleaded guilty in January 2016 to tax evasion. He had received $2 million in outside consulting fees he received while working as the town’s planning and development commissioner.
Federal prosecutors said in court that the Manganos engaged in an influence-peddling scheme in which they used their political muscle on behalf of a restaurant owner and political donor to help him obtain loans and contracts with the county. Also charged in the scheme was the supervisor of the town of Oyster Bay, Mr. Venditto, who was later acquitted at trial.
In return, the restaurant owner, Harendra Singh, gave the Manganos a stream of gifts, including subsidized tropical vacations, free meals and $11,000 worth of chauffeured limousine rides, prosecutors said.
The couple’s first trial ended in a mistrial in May 2018 after the jury foreman told the judge he was unable to perform his duties. The retrial began in January in Federal District Court in Central Islip, Long Island.
Mr. Mangano also received an expensive massage chair and a $7,300 Panerai Luminor watch from Mr. Singh, the government said. Ms. Mangano got a no-show job as a “food taster,” a position restaurant industry experts said was a fiction, for which she received about $450,000 over several years from the restaurateur.
At the trial, Mr. Mangano’s lawyer, Kevin Keating, painted Mr. Singh as a “morally bankrupt sociopath” whose testimony against the Manganos could not be trusted.
Mr. Singh was a familiar figure around Oyster Bay, the owner of dozens of businesses including a concession stand on Tobay Beach and the Woodlands restaurant. He drove a Maserati and used an email address that identified him as “the restaurant mogul.” He also donated to a range of politicians, including Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.
Prosecutors presented evidence that starting in 2010 Mr. Singh sought about $20 million in loans and turned to Mr. Mangano for help. Mr. Mangano used his influence to persuade Mr. Venditto to have the town of Oyster Bay back the loans, the prosecutors said.
The government also alleged Mr. Mangano helped Mr. Singh receive $400,000 worth of contracts to provide bread to the county jail and food to emergency workers after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In the end, the jury found Mr. Mangano was not guilty of receiving bribes in connection with those contracts.
Mr. Singh eventually plead guilty to bribing the two officials, and agreed to testify against them. In the course of his testimony, Mr. Singh revealed a scheme to funnel money in exchange for influence to New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, and claimed Mr. de Blasio was aware of his efforts. Last year, Mr. Singh plead guilty to attempting to bribe the mayor.
Mr. Venditto, the Oyster Bay supervisor, was tried separately and found not guilty of all charges last May by a jury in Federal District Court in Islip. He still faces state charges. He described the ordeal at the time as “an educational experience.”
Arielle Dollinger and Angela Macroupolos contributed reporting.
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