Mei: Being investigated was ‘rite of passage’ in Oyster Bay

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Former Oyster Bay Deputy Town Attorney Fred Mei was back on the stand Tuesday in the Mangano-Venditto federal corruption trial to describe more of what he called the “Oyster Bay way” pay-to-play culture in the town.

Mei described the day in September 2014 that the FBI knocked on his front door, asking to question him. He said he spent an hour or an hour and a half detailing his businesses dealings and his relationship with the prosecution’s star witness, restaurateur Harendra Singh.

VIDEO: Newsday's Joye Brown breaks down Fred Mei testimony

The meeting between federal agents and Mei took place just one month after they raided Singh’s Bethpage offices.

Mei testified that he lied to the FBI, saying at the time that he did not accept any bribes from Singh.

After the agents left his home, Mei said he quickly told Oyster Bay Deputy Supervisor Len Genova about the visit. He said he and Genova then visited Town Supervisor John Venditto at his North Massapequa campaign headquarters.

Mei said he was worried about the FBI and was concerned he would lose his job and his pension. But he said Venditto and Genova took the news in stride.

"They seemed to indicate that it was a rite of passage. That being investigated was not a big deal," said Mei.

VIDEO: Newsday's Nicole Fuller on Fred Mei testimony

Mei said he also told Singh that he spoke with the federal agents.

"I told him they had asked about trips and other gifts, and I had to deny taking anything," said Mei.

Prosecutor Lara Gatz then asked, "And what did he say in response?"

Mei replied: "He said, 'don't worry. If anyone has to worry, it's Ed Mangano.'"

Mei ultimately pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Singh. He signed a cooperation agreement with the government that required him to wear a wire during two conversations with Singh where he was encouraged to get the restaurant mogul to open up about what he received from Mangano in exchange for bribes and kickbacks.

But as the jury heard earlier in this trial, Singh said on the tape that he got nothing from Mangano.

On cross-examination, Mei also admitted to swapping out language in one of Singh's town contracts without telling Venditto. He insisted that it was never used. 

"I thought there was nothing wrong about what I did," said Mei.

Despite his cooperation agreement, Mei is still facing 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from Singh. He will be sentenced at a later date.

The trial resumes Wednesday.

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