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Harendra Singh testifies how he found favor with 'people in power'

The testimony came on a day when Linda Mangano's attorney wrapped up Singh's cross-examination in the trial's fourth week with questions on what work product Linda Mangano generated for Singh's now-defunct restaurant empire.

Edward and Linda Mangano arrive at federal court

Edward and Linda Mangano arrive at federal court in Central Islip on Wednesday.  Photo Credit: James Carbone

This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith.  It was written by Murphy.

Former restaurateur Harendra Singh ended six days of testimony in the corruption retrial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, by recounting how he said he bought his way into favor with "people in power."

"When you buy a couple of tickets, you become big supporter.  When you hold a fundraiser, you become very good friend," Singh said Monday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

Then the prosecution's star witness cut to the heart of the case against the Bethpage couple.

"When you stuff money in their pockets, you bribe them, then you are family," Singh declared.

The testimony came on a day when Linda Mangano's attorney, John Carman, wrapped up Singh's cross-examination in the trial's fourth week. His questions focused on what work product Linda Mangano generated for Singh's now-defunct restaurant empire.

The witness insisted any food tastings Linda Mangano did at his businesses weren't part of her employment duties in what the prosecution says was a $450,000 bribe to her politician husband that was disguised as a "no-show" job.

“She came in to eat, that’s it,” said Singh, who spent 13 days testifying during the couple's first federal trial last year.

That three-month proceeding ended in a mistrial.

Carman got Singh to admit Monday he only found out about a series of emails Linda Mangano exchanged with the manager of his former waterfront Queens restaurant, Water’s Edge, during the Manganos’ 2018 trial.

Evidence showed Linda Mangano swapped emails with former Singh employee Joe Scalice from April 2010 through July 2010 that talked about marketing strategy and menus for Water’s Edge, as well as guest lists for an event for Singh's family’s charity and a cocktail party honoring female business leaders.

“I know she had done some work in early 2010,” Singh acknowledged.

Singh also agreed Linda Mangano sent an Excel spreadsheet with names and addresses of invitees for the women's business luncheon to Scalice.

One of the allegations against the GOP official's wife is that she lied to the FBI about using spreadsheets to handle Singh's invite lists for gatherings and tastings.

But Singh maintained Monday he “never” had any conversations with Linda Mangano regarding work for him and tried to dismiss her emails as minimal. He claimed Linda Mangano’s job wasn’t real and he didn't talk with her about food or concepts for his restaurants.

“If Linda Mangano did anything here or there, I guess that was her way of saying ‘Thank you for the job,’ ” Singh testified.

The witness said the two only spoke once about the job, and he quoted Linda Mangano as saying: “Thank you for giving this paycheck. This is a great help to us personally."

Singh added Monday that Edward Mangano told him at least 50 times that his wife would show up ready to work the next day at HR Singletons — Singh's former flagship restaurant in Bethpage  — but she never did.

“From time to time, Ed would say, ‘Give some work to Linda,’ but she would never show up,” said Singh.

The witness said he played along, adding Monday: “I knew the reality.” 

Carman used some emails and calendar entries from Singh's computer server, which prosecutors didn't turn over before the 2018 trial, to present evidence the first jury didn't hear about Linda Mangano's interactions with Singh's business.

Singh said he was unaware of a calendar entry showing a meeting at the Manganos' Bethpage home involving himself, Linda Mangano and Keith Langan, who had been a Singletons manager.

Carman also showed Singh emails from March 2011 between Linda Mangano and outside marketing firm Bullfrog Communications demonstrating that the contractor's employees were sending her mock-ups of menus for Singletons and Besi — Singh's nearby pizzeria.

"I made all the revisions and fit everything in," Linda Mangano also emailed Langan in one message.

"H wants changes," Langan replied, using Singh's nickname. "I will need your help AGAIN when we are ready."

Another of the allegations against Linda Mangano is that she lied to the FBI about handling menu changes for Singh.

Edward Mangano, 56, and Linda Mangano, 55, are standing trial on felony offenses that include conspiracy to obstruct justice.

He also faces charges of federal program bribery, extortion, wire fraud and other conspiracy counts. She also faces an obstruction of justice charge, along with three counts of making false statements. 

The government claims Singh began bribing Edward Mangano after he rose to the top of Nassau’s government in 2010, bestowing a fake job on Linda Mangano, and giving the couple wood flooring for their bedroom, five vacations, free meals, two luxury chairs and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of their sons.

Prosecutors say that in exchange, the then-county executive illegally steered two Nassau contracts that together were worth more than $400,000 to Singh, along with tens of millions of dollars in Town of Oyster Bay-backed loans.

The defense claims Singh was a longtime family friend who gave the Manganos gifts as part of that relationship, and that he is testifying against the couple to try to gain leniency after pleading guilty to bribing public officials and tax evasion.

The defense also contends Edward Mangano didn’t have the clout as a new county executive in 2010 to influence Oyster Bay officials — with whom Singh had done business for years — into giving the restaurateur any loans.

In another line of questioning, Carman tried to emphasize Monday that Singh had lived an opulent lifestyle, in contrast to what the witness previously testified was “a modest life.”

“Is that still your testimony?” Carman asked Monday.

“Yes,” Singh replied.

“Was that a lie?” the lawyer then asked.

Singh said it was neither a lie nor an exaggeration.

But Linda Mangano’s attorney seized upon Singh’s testimony to show the jury several photos of the witness’ Laurel Hollow estate — a 10,000-square-foot residence on two acres, with a swimming pool and game room.

Singh also agreed that in the past he bought a Maserati for $150,000, paid $400 a month for a 24-foot Sea Ray boat, took international vacations, and at one point owned about 10 restaurants and had 700 to 800 employees on a $6 million payroll.

Federal prosecutors chose not to redirect questions to Singh after the defense finished its cross-examination.

The government ended the day's trial proceedings with a witness who had worked for the lending institution that in 2010 extended to Singh a $1.5 million line of credit and then a $3.4 million loan, both of which the Town of Oyster Bay backed.

Thomas Gilmartin, then chief lending officer for Madison National Bank in Hauppauge, told Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz he first heard about Singh through loan broker Ray Saccaro.

The bank initially rejected Singh's bid for $1.5 million in credit to use in connection with his Tobay Beach concessions agreement after reviewing his finances, but that changed after Saccaro said Oyster Bay would guarantee the deal, Gilmartin said. 

There was a snag, according to the witness, when town deputy attorney Frederick Mei told him there could be a problem with the town guaranteeing the loan.

That's when Mei relayed the solution that if Singh defaulted on repayment, the town would give the value of Singh's investments at the South Shore beach venue to the bank, Gilmartin said.

The witness testified that both the $1.5 million and $3.4 million deals had that caveat, without which the transactions wouldn't have gone forward.

During a cross-examination, Gilmartin told Edward Mangano's attorney, Kevin Keating, the deals also wouldn't have happened if the bank knew Singh had lied about his net worth or had paid an outside law firm to vouch for the legality of the transactions.

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