Testimony in Mangano-Venditto trial: Deputy town attorney was 'scapegoat'

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CENTRAL ISLIP -

The former second-in-command in the town of Oyster Bay took the stand Monday in the corruption trial of ex-Town Supervisor John Venditto, ex-Nassau Supervisor Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda.

The testimony by ex-Deputy Supervisor Leonard Genova came as the eighth week of the trial got underway at federal court in Central Islip.

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Genova said on the stand that he and Venditto accepted bribes from restaurateur-turned-government witness Harendra Singh, and then attempted to cover it up.

Genova told the jury that in 2014, the feds were closing in as the FBI issued subpoenas to the town of Oyster Bay, raided Singh's flagship restaurant and began showing up at the homes of town employees. All the while, Genova says Venditto ordered his chief of staff, Rich Porcelli, and himself to begin a desperate attempt to gather information. He says they even lied to their own legal counsel, "...trying to make sure they never found about any of the things that we did that were unlawful."

Genova says he and Venditto allowed deputy town attorney Fred Mei to be painted as a "rogue attorney," even though the supervisor himself signed off on the plan to use the town's creditworthiness to back Singh's personal loans. "He was the person we pointed to and used as a scapegoat," Genova said of Mei.

Even with Venditto's wife and children in the court room, Genova delivered his testimony in a steady and straight forward manner. He told the jury that he and Venditto were close -- so close that when Genova's wife died of cancer in 2015, John Venditto spoke at the funeral.

Genova also detailed the now-infamous April 2010 meeting at Venditto's North Massapequa campaign headquarters, which he says was attended by Mangano, Venditto, Singh and a group of staffers and attorneys. Genova says Venditto assigned him to organize the meeting. Genova says with Venditto and Mangano in attendance, it was clear that it was not a meeting to determine if the town could help Singh, but rather how the town would do so.

Speaking of Mangano, Genova said, "I think his presence was there just to make sure everyone in the room saw how important it was to him that we got this done."

Judge Joan Azrack estimates the case is only about two-thirds of the way through. As a result, she moved up the daily starting time to 9 a.m., and plans to shorten the jury's lunch break.

The trial resumes tomorrow, with Genova back on the stand.

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