GARDEN CITY, Nassau County -- Opening arguments began on Wednesday in the bribery trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife and a former town supervisor in a case that a federal prosecutor described as "corruption and greed at the highest level."
Between 2010 and last December, Mangano held the highest elected position in the county adjacent to New York City. Prosecutors said the Republican began engaging in corrupt acts within weeks of his election.
"Mr. Mangano lied and accepted bribes and his wife, Linda, had a $100,000-a-year year sham job," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Gatz told the court, adding that the former attorney and county legislator sold himself to maintain his lifestyle.
Mangano, his wife, Linda, of Bethpage, New York, and John Venditto, a former Oyster Bay town supervisor, all have pleaded not guilty to an indictment alleging extortion, bribery and more.
The indictment charges that Mangano and Venditto received bribes and kickbacks to help a Long Island businessman, Harendra Singh, obtain guaranteed loans. Linda, prosecutors said, was given a $100,000-a-year, no-show job at one of the Singh's restaurants, enabling her to make $450,000 while doing little besides tasting food.
Edward Mangano also is accused of accepting vacations and other gifts in exchange for his influence. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The Manganos said they had a two-decade personal friendship with Singh, long before Mangano was elected, and that any gifts or favors between the families had nothing to do with his office.
On Wednesday, Mangano's attorney, Kevin Keating, attacked Singh's character, saying "he lied every day of his life" and could not be believed. He added that Singh received the contracts because of others and not because of Mangano.
Venditto's lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said his client "got nothing of any consequence" from Singh, who he said had a "dark side."
Outside court, Agnifilo told reporters that he may call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to testify. Federal investigators have looked into payments that Singh had made to the Democratic mayor.
As part of his own criminal case, Singh pleaded guilty to paying bribes to the mayor, in the form of campaign contributions, in an attempt to resolve a dispute with the city over his restaurant lease.
De Blasio was not prosecuted. He has denied taking any bribes and suggested Singh pleaded guilty only because he was desperate to get leniency for other corrupt acts.
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Ex-Nassau Executive Ed Mangano, accused of taking kickbacks, heads to trial