Harendra Singh, the one-time restaurant mogul who repeatedly bribed ex-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in an ill-fated bid to keep his eateries afloat by securing $20 million in loan guarantees from the Town of Oyster Bay, was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack, in sentencing Singh, called the former Oyster Bay Town concessionaire “a one-man economic crime wave” for the myriad financial crimes, including tax fraud, bribery and check kiting, that Singh admitted.
But the judge also credited his cooperation with federal prosecutors as the star witness against Mangano as an enormous factor in prosecuting the county executive. She called Singh’s “extraordinary” contribution — which included 17 days of testimony over two trials and countless meetings with prosecutors — “his saving grace” and “possibly unmatched by any defendant in a corruption prosecution.”
Singh’s trial testimony “exposed the corrupt culture that was business as usual in Nassau County,” Azrack said.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Harendra Singh, the one-time restaurant mogul who repeatedly bribed ex-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, was sentenced to four years in prison for his crime Wednesday.
- U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack called the former Oyster Bay Town concessionaire “a one-man economic crime wave” for the myriad financial crimes, including tax fraud, bribery and check kiting, that Singh admitted.
- Azrack also sentenced Frederick Mei, 64, of Bayville, an ex-deputy town attorney in Oyster Bay who admitted accepting bribes from Singh as part of the loan guarantee scheme and dubbed the town's pay-to-play culture as "the Oyster Bay way,” to two years in prison and one year of probation.
The judge also sentenced Singh to two years of probation and ordered him to pay $22,824,082.54 in restitution — $25 monthly while in custody and 10% of his gross monthly income after he is released.
Singh, 64, of Laurel Hollow, who despite maintaining a decadeslong friendship with Mangano and his wife, Linda, testified against the couple when they were convicted on corruption charges in 2019, apologized to the court for his conduct.
"I'm deeply sorry," said Singh, who briefly choked up while speaking. "I beg for your leniency.”
Earlier Wednesday, Azrack also sentenced Frederick Mei, 64, of Bayville, an ex-deputy town attorney in Oyster Bay who admitted accepting bribes from Singh as part of the loan guarantee scheme and dubbed the town's pay-to-play culture as "the Oyster Bay way,” to two years in prison and one year of probation.
The sentencing of Singh and Mei, both of whom the judge credited with pulling back the curtain on the corruption that permeated government and politics in Oyster Bay and Nassau County, closes a chapter of the legal saga that brought down Edward Mangano, a two-term Republican.
Mangano, 61, now a disbarred attorney, is currently incarcerated in a federal prison in Massachusetts, serving a 12-year-sentence for his 2019 conviction of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Mangano took official action in his role as county executive, the jury found, when he used his position to influence Oyster Bay town officials to authorize the town to serve as an indirect guarantor for what amounted to $20 million in loans for Singh, who wanted the funds to make improvements to several seaside eateries he operated in the town.
Mangano helped execute the corrupt scheme, the jury found, because Singh plied him with bribes, including a $450,000 “no-show” job for his wife, two luxury chairs, flooring for his and his wife’s Bethpage bedroom, free meals and vacations and a $7,300 watch for one of his sons.
Linda Mangano, 60, served five months in prison of a 15-month sentence for her conviction of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and two counts of lying to the FBI as part of the scheme.
Both Manganos have appealed.
Singh pleaded guilty as part of a cooperation agreement in 2016 to eight counts, including conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud related to the Town of Oyster Bay loan scheme, and a nearly $1 million fraudulent claim to FEMA that the Water’s Edge, a Queens catering hall he owned, was damaged during Superstorm Sandy. He also pleaded guilty to obstructing and impeding the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws.
Singh’s defense attorney, Anthony La Pinta, had urged the judge to sentence Singh to time served and probation, citing his client’s “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” cooperation. On Wednesday, he proclaimed: “If there was a Mount Rushmore of cooperators, H. Singh would be front and center.”
Singh, La Pinta also pointed out, has the support of his wife, Ruby, who was in court Wednesday, and his three sons — a medical school student, a banker and an officer in the Marines. His sons’ accomplishments, La Pinta said, should serve as a credit to Singh’s parenting.
“I am so impressed with his sons,” Azrack interjected. “He should be so proud of them.”
But some members of the public have not been kind, La Pinta said, detailing how Singh has been the subject of taunting when recognized in public and has received threatening messages on his car and in his mailbox.
“His notoriety due to this case has been an obstacle he’s not been able to overcome,” said La Pinta, who said his client has suffered financially, losing his home to foreclosure and working for “meager hourly rates.”
La Pinta said earlier in court papers that Singh has recently worked part time at a YMCA, as a consultant for an insurance company in Hicksville and also assisting brokers with real estate transactions, and that he made just $20,000 last year.
La Pinta said while he recognized the judge’s ability to send a message that public corruption will be punished severely, he also urged her to consider what her sentence of Singh would convey to potential government cooperators in the future.
“You have an ability here, judge, to send a message out … that if you do the right thing, own it and tell the truth, you will be given significant consideration,” La Pinta said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile, who prosecuted the Manganos and personally questioned Singh when he testified during both trials, had previously advocated in a letter to the judge for Singh to receive a sentence below the federal guidelines of 14½ to 17 years in prison.
The veteran prosecutor, speaking in court Wednesday, said while Singh was a “flawed man” who committed “extensive” crimes with “far-reaching” consequences, he had “come a long way.”
“The Harendra Singhs of the world deserve consideration — he deserves consideration — for his cooperation,” Mirabile said in court Wednesday.
Standing with his client outside the courthouse after the sentencing, La Pinta said they were “disappointed.”
"We are disappointed with the sentence — not shocked — disappointed," he said. "We tried to do the right thing, availed ourself to every opportunity to assist the investigation."
La Pinta added: “The judge was very careful in her words. She’s made a very profound statement to the public that that’s how these cases are going to be dealt with — with a strong hand — even if you’re a cooperator.”
Singh will receive credit for the nearly nine months he spent in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal facility, La Pinta said, but not for the over three years he spent in home confinement with an ankle bracelet.
Hours earlier in the same courtroom during Mei’s sentencing, Mirabile also expressed the difficulty prosecutors have in prosecuting public corruption cases and the importance of insiders sharing what they know.
“Without people willing to cooperate — people like Fred Mei, who are willing to assist the government in its investigation and help expose the harm to the public — these cases may never see the light of day,” Mirabile said. “Fred Mei’s cooperation helped expose the harm done to the people of Nassau County, the residents of the Town of Oyster Bay.”
Azrack said she weighed a number of factors in determining Mei's sentence, including his cooperation with the government. He wore a wire during the investigation and testified during the Manganos’ first trial, during which he told the jury that other town officials shrugged off the initial FBI investigation, calling it a "rite of passage."
"My sentence must send a message to public officials … that corruption will be punished by more than a slap on the wrist," Azrack said.
Mei, who pleaded guilty to one count of honest services fraud in 2015 and resigned from his $117,288-a-year job with the town, briefly addressed the judge before he was sentenced and apologized for his actions.
"I just wanted to use this opportunity to apologize to the citizens of Oyster Bay for my conduct during that time," Mei said.
Mei and his attorney, Gary Schoer, who asked for his client to be sentenced to home confinement or probation, declined to comment as they left court after the sentencing.
Singh gave Mei $70,000 in cash and gifts between 2010 and 2012, according to prosecutors, to ensure that the town guaranteed Singh’s loans. Singh also paid Mei’s $36,000 lease for his BMW and for several vacations, including to South Korea.
At the first trial, during which the jury deadlocked on convicting the Manganos and acquitted former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, the late Venditto's attorney needled Mei about his fear of potentially going to prison.
“Tell the jury how terrified you are to go to prison," Venditto's attorney, Marc Agnifilo, said.
“Truly terrified,” Mei said.
In addition to bribing Mangano, Singh admitted bribing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was not accused of any wrongdoing.
Both Singh and Mei are slated to turn themselves in to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons on Jan. 24.
Azrack said she would recommend that Singh serve his time in either of the federal prison camps in Allentown, Pennsylvania or Danbury, Connecticut, which La Pinta requested.
Mei’s attorney asked the judge to recommend his client be housed at a federal prison in Kentucky or at the Federal Medical Center, Devens, in Massachusetts — the same prison where Ed Mangano is an inmate.
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