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In FBI notes, a glimpse of friendship at heart of Mangano case

Harendra Singh, left, with former Nassau County Executive

Harendra Singh, left, with former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano at a 2012 fundraising gala in Woodbury, shown on the Facebook page of the Raj & Rajeshwari Foundation. Credit: Facebook

Harendra Singh felt so comfortable dropping in on former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, that he would often just walk through the unlocked front door of their Bethpage home.

When Singh welcomed his wife to the United States for the first time, Mangano gave him a ride to the airport.

And when Singh, a one-time restaurateur who was a frequent campaign contributor to local politicians, began having financial woes, he didn’t need to tell the Manganos.

Linda Mangano said she sensed something “just wasn’t right” because Singh had sold the Maserati her two sons adored.

“He loves me and I love him,” Linda Mangano told FBI agents of her “brother and sister” relationship with Singh.

The 25-year bond between the Manganos and Singh is publicly detailed — largely for the first time — in FBI-prepared summaries of Linda Mangano’s 2015 interviews with investigators.

It is the bond at the heart of the federal corruption case against Edward and Linda Mangano and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, one the Manganos have consistently said was just a friendship, with nothing improper.

The documents were contained in motions submitted on Dec. 11 by Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman, in the case filed in October 2016 against her, her husband and Venditto.

Authorities charge that Edward Mangano — whose eight years in office came to a close at the end of the year — and Venditto received “bribes and kickbacks” from Singh, including a lucrative no-show job to Linda Mangano, in exchange for benefits including county contracts and town loan guarantees.

Charges against Linda Mangano include obstructing justice and making false statements.

In his filing, Carman wrote that despite producing 37 pages of detailed notes on statements his client had made voluntarily, the government has yet to specify which statements they believe were false. He called it “a strategy rooted in surprise and ambush.”

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty and, through attorneys or spokesmen, declined to comment or didn’t return calls and emails for this story.

Their trial is set for March 12.

An attorney for Singh, who faces separate bribery and tax evasion charges, couldn’t be reached for comment. He has also pleaded not guilty.

Work for Singh

The FBI summaries cited by Carman cover Linda Mangano’s three interviews with FBI agents and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District office between January 2015 and May 2015. They centered on her work for Singh’s restaurants, which included Water’s Edge in Long Island City, H.R. Singleton’s in Bethpage and others.

In the indictment, the defendants are alleged to have received the “bribes and kickbacks” from an unidentified co-conspirator, whom sources have identified as Singh. In the interview summaries, however, Singh is named as the clear focus of investigators’ questions for Linda Mangano.

From early 2010 — shortly after Republican Edward Mangano became county executive — to mid-2014, Singh paid Linda Mangano more than $450,000, authorities say.

She told investigators she helped design menus and plan events, though she did almost all of it from her home, face-to-face with Singh.

“Doing the ‘fluffy pretty stuff’ for Singh’s restaurants,” is how Linda Mangano described the job, according to a summary of her first interview, on Jan. 13, 2015, at her Bethpage home.

Though Linda Mangano “would never admit that her job with Singh was a no-show job,” investigators wrote, she said she had no set hours, no office, didn’t know her precise salary, and produced only one email documenting work (she said more was on an old laptop that crashed and was discarded).

Among the tasks Linda Mangano told agents she performed over four years: planning two special events at Singh restaurants; helping with “three or four” food tastings; designing a postcard for Water’s Edge (with the phrase “The only thing we overlook is Manhattan”); creating a two-sided menu for Singh’s Besi Pizza in Bethpage and helping reorganize Singleton’s menu.

She said she also suggested Singh rename his Chow Down Diner in Bethpage after Route 24 and retheme it to include putting pickles on the table.

“However, Singh appeared to want more of a gourmet menu, including duck,” agents wrote.

During Linda Mangano’s second interview, on May 20, 2015, with Carman present, the attorney “pointed out Mangano was not claiming to have performed a lot of work as part of her employment,” investigators wrote.

‘Brother and sister’

In May 2015, Linda Mangano characterized her relationship with Singh — whom she called “H” — as “that of a brother and sister.”

She recalled the friendship dating back at least 25 years, beginning from when she and Edward Mangano met Singh at one of his restaurants.

They became so tight, she said, that Edward Mangano drove Singh to the airport to greet his wife, Ruby, upon her first landing in the country.

She referred to Singh’s mother as “Mama” and knew the exact location of the Singh family’s table at Singleton’s, behind a partition.

The Manganos and Singhs celebrated holidays together. They also vacationed together — trips authorities allege Singh paid for as some of the “bribes and kickbacks.”

During her interviews, Linda Mangano said she didn’t know who paid for many of the getaways, which included Amelia Island in Florida and Saratoga Springs in upstate New York.

For a trip to Turks and Caicos, Linda Mangano said she believed Singh used “points” for airfare and hotel stays, but that the Manganos paid for meals and outings.

“Ed never did favors for Singh,” Linda Mangano said, according to an interview summary. “If Ed advocated for ‘H’ it would do more harm.”

With Singleton’s located barely a mile from the Manganos’ home, the restaurateur was a constant presence. He would sometimes visit three or four times a week, Linda Mangano said, and, with the door unlocked, would usually let himself in.

Linda Mangano told investigators she would have done “the work for free,” but it was also difficult for her to “define what she did in her capacity as an employee versus what she did as a friend to Singh.”

‘Backed out’ of other jobs

She said she quit in early 2014 after sensing Singh was having financial difficulties. Though Singh wouldn’t admit that money was tight, Linda Mangano said she noticed he’d sold his Maserati, which her two sons “loved.”

“Mangano decided to leave Singh’s employment because she didn’t want to put Singh in a position where he had to admit he was having financial problems,” agents wrote.

Linda Mangano told authorities she had also been offered jobs by politicians following her husband’s 2009 election.

The upset victory made Edward Mangano, a part-time county legislator and “of counsel” to the Uniondale law firm Rivkin Radler, the most-influential figure in county government.

The investigators wrote that Linda Mangano told them she could have been an $80,000-a-year consultant for Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) or worked for John Venditto’s son, former state Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa), who served one term from 2015 to 2016.

She said she declined both.

In the case of Montesano, Linda Mangano “ ‘backed out’ because she thought it would be a big story that Ed takes office and Mangano gets this job,” investigators wrote.

Linda Mangano said she “backed out” of the Venditto job “because she was afraid of ‘the reflection.’”

Investigators wrote that she also said she “had a discussion” with then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) — whose conviction in an unrelated corruption case was recently overturned on appeal — about “doing newsletters for him,” but decided against it.

Requests for comment to Michael Venditto and Skelos’ attorney were not returned.

Montesano, however, said in an interview that he never made Linda Mangano a job offer. He said somebody whose name he can’t recall mentioned Linda Mangano as a job candidate shortly after he won a February 2010 special election, but “I wasn’t interested.”

He said he called her as a courtesy but never connected. Edward Mangano called back, he said, and said his wife didn’t want the job.

“I told him I can’t do it, anyway,” Montesano said, adding that his Assembly payroll wouldn’t have supported an $80,000 salary for a single aide. “I didn’t like the look of it because of who the husband was.”

A ‘lull’ in tasks

Linda Mangano told investigators that, when she was first hired by Singh, she thought it would be a “focused position,” but there was soon a “lull” in tasks.

At the point of her FBI interviews, she had moved on to other jobs, including consulting for a medical billing company, while Singh was coming under federal scrutiny.

Singh was ultimately indicted in September 2015 on charges that included bribing a Town of Oyster Bay official to help secure the town’s “indirect guarantee” of more than $20 million in loans Singh tried to obtain for his businesses.

During a May 22 interview, four months before Singh’s arrest, Linda Mangano expressed doubt that Singh would bribe anyone. But she did relay an anecdote showing that at least one member of her family was trying to distance the Manganos from the troubled restaurateur.

For the graduation of one of Mangano’s sons, Singh had given a $251 check. The son, Linda told authorities, “ripped up the check because he didn’t want to attach himself or his family to Singh.”

With Robert E. Kessler

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