The latest case of alleged corruption in New York State is out on Long Island, where Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda, and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto have reportedly been arrested in a bribery scheme.
Mangano, who’s been in office since 2009, and his wife surrendered to FBI officials early this morning. They will appear in federal court Thursday on corruption charges allegedly relating to their ties with restaurateur Harendra Singh, who has long been under federal investigation on Long Island and in Queens. Singh was arrested in September 2015 for allegedly fraudulently claiming $1 million in Hurricane Sandy funds, for underreporting millions in income to the IRS, and for giving kickbacks to another Town of Oyster Bay official in exchange for contracts for food-concession stands.
Federal investigators allege that Singh showered the Manganos and Venditto with lavish perks — including a $450,00 no-show job for Linda Mangano at one of Singh’s restaurants; free meals and travel for Ed Mangano; and a free private room and chauffeur service for Venditto. Newsday reports that, in exchange:
The help Singh got was in obtaining millions of dollars of indirect town guarantees on bonds that he used for his businesses, as well as two contracts from Nassau County, according to the sources.
One contract involved the supply of $200,000 worth of bread and rolls to the Nassau County jail in June 2012; the second for providing $237,000 worth of food to county workers in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, sources said.
Federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York are bringing the charges, one in a string of recent corruption cases on Long Island. Singh is reportedly cooperating with authorities in the cases against Mangano and Venditto, in exchange for some leniency in the slew of charges he is already facing, sources told Newsday.
Singh is also a character in the federal investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fundraising activities — and he is reportedly cooperating with investigators on that case, as the New York Times reported Wednesday. (The de Blasio investigation is being led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York.)
Singh owned the (now-closed) Water’s Edge restaurant, in Long Island City, Queens, which operated on property owned by the city. According to the Times, federal officials are investigating whether Singh used straw donors to give up to $50,000 to de Blasio’s campaign. Records show that the de Blasio campaign also hosted two fundraising events at the Water’s Edge.
Fast forward to 2015, when an audit revealed that Singh’s Water’s Edge restaurant owed almost $2 million in back rent. The city went to court to try to evict Singh before the end of his lease in 2017. Singh fought back and was reportedly close to a deal with the city to avoid getting the boot — until he was arrested in September on those other corruption charges. What the feds are digging into now is whether Singh sought help from City Hall to try to make a deal about his restaurant lease — and, if so, who helped him out and how.
Singh also had spots on a few committees relating to the mayor’s initiatives, as reported by amNY in October, including his 2014 inauguration committee, and he served on the advisory board of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that’s chaired by First Lady Chirlane McCray. (He was reportedly removed from that post after his indictment in 2015.)
After the arrests of Mangano and Venditto, Eric Phillips, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, told Newsday the administration “is absolutely confident that we’ve acted appropriately at all times. We don’t do pay to play. Out of an interest in protecting the integrity of an ongoing review, we can’t comment further at this stage.”