This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Murphy.
Both Edward and Linda Mangano broke down in tears at a 2015 meeting at their home as they fabricated stories to explain a trail of bribes after the FBI started sniffing around, the prosecution's star witness testified Monday in the corruption retrial of the former Nassau County executive and his wife.
But later Monday, the defense started an aggressive assault on the character of the same witness, Harendra Singh. Jurors heard that the former restaurateur admittedly now has fallen into financial and criminal disgrace — having even cheated his own father out of money.
On Singh’s second day of testimony, Edward Mangano’s lawyer sought in a cross-examination to portray the witness as a liar who has violated a bail condition and is trying to save himself from a long prison sentence for his own crimes.
Defense attorney Kevin Keating's questioning of Singh followed direct testimony in which the government witness recalled in detail one of four occasions he said he met with the Manganos to get his "story straight" about how to describe Linda Mangano's work for his company and other alleged bribes.
Singh testified Monday during questioning by prosecutor Catherine Mirabile that he initially met with the couple at their Bethpage home in January 2015 — after the county executive's wife got her first FBI visit — to agree on a story that "was not true" about Linda Mangano's employment in a job he said she "never showed up for."
Singh said another one of those meetings was in February 2015 after the FBI served Linda Mangano with a grand jury subpoena demanding evidence of work she did for him.
The witness said talk at one point turned to vacation expenses he covered for the Manganos and both husband and wife had become distressed by that point.
“Oh my God, I’m going to end up going to jail,” Linda Mangano said, according to Singh’s testimony.
Then, with his wife already in tears, Edward Mangano began crying too, Singh said from the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
“Don’t worry. I’m going to jail, not you,” Singh said Edward Mangano told his wife.
Singh did not provide those details during his testimony in the first trial.
Mirabile continued to draw out answers throughout the morning of testimony that the government says show the restaurateur bribed Edward Mangano with a series of valuable perks in exchange for lucrative county contracts and tens of millions of dollars in loans backed by the Town of Oyster Bay.
The federal prosecutor used bills, credit card statements, text messages and emails to try to corroborate Singh’s claim that he won government contracts in return for showering the couple with gifts.
“Anything and everything, whatever he requested, I complied with that,” Singh said of the former county executive.
Singh, 60, of Laurel Hollow, is awaiting sentencing after previously pleading guilty to evading taxes and bribing Edward Mangano, former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Venditto won a federal acquittal in May and prosecutors never charged de Blasio.
A pay-to-play strategy became a key component of Singh’s business early on, the witness has testified.
Singh said Monday it became so integral to the survival of his restaurant empire that after Mangano was elected to a second term as county executive, he put off a meeting with a loan broker so he wouldn’t miss the incumbent’s swearing-in.
“As you know, all my projects revolve around politics. I cannot afford missing Mangano’s oath taking. Please understand that,” read a Singh email from December 2013.
The businessman went on to testify during questioning by Mirabile about meetings he said he had with Michael Sposato, who was then Nassau County’s sheriff. The meetings happened as Singh said he worked to land a six-figure contract to supply the county jail with bread and rolls — another alleged kickback from the county executive.
Singh said he met with Sposato, a former jail cook, between 20 and 25 times in 2012 to lobby for the $200,000 bread and rolls deal and the two texted in "code" at Sposato's request — using the word "war" instead of "contract."
Singh eventually won the deal, but pulled out after his wife's small storefront bakery wasn’t able to handle the volume, testimony showed.
Singh also testified Monday that he laundered $3,600 in cash that Edward Mangano gave him after getting it from contractor Anthony Gulino. Gulino testified last week that he fixed a porch railing at the Manganos' home for free, gave the county executive the cash to ensure access to him in the future and had Mangano write him a check for the same amount — allegations the defense denies.
The Manganos' first trial ended in a mistrial in May.
Edward Mangano, 56, has pleaded not guilty to seven felony offenses in all — charges of federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud, extortion and conspiracy.
Linda Mangano, 55, who also has pleaded not guilty, is standing trial on five felony counts — charges that include lying to the FBI about her work for Singh.
The defense insists Edward Mangano didn’t take any official action in return for Singh’s expenditures, which the couple says were gifts from a longtime family friend.
Besides Linda Mangano's alleged “no-show” job, the government claims the bribes included wood flooring for the Manganos' bedroom, free meals, five vacations, two chairs worth more than $3,000 each and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of their sons on his 21st birthday.
But juxtaposed with Singh's recollection of Nassau's former first couple weeping at the idea of going to jail, the defense elicited testimony Monday afternoon that attempted to show Singh as someone with a dark side.
Keating started his questioning of Singh by asking how many times the former self-proclaimed "restaurant mogul" — his personal email moniker — had lied in the last two decades.
"I don't know," Singh replied.
"Thousands?" the Garden City lawyer asked.
"Could be," said Singh. "Could be less. I don't know. I didn't keep a record."
At another point, Singh admitted his greed was to blame for the destruction of some of his own father's hard-earned business success.
"Your dad worked hard, didn't he?" Keating asked.
The witness agreed.
"And he lost it all, because of your greed?" the defense attorney said, referencing Singh's father's bankruptcy at age 82.
"Because of my actions, yes," Singh replied.
The defense also confronted Singh with a September photo of the witness using a cellphone outside his Laurel Hollow mansion, which Singh agreed was a violation of his bail release conditions. The witness, who was depicted in the photo with a mortgage fraud convict, said the man was a client of the Hicksville real estate company, HP Realty, where he currently works.
Singh also said he used his wife's phone because he "needed to be in touch" while his mother was in a rehab facility for four months.
Keating questioned Singh about a slew of financial crimes to which he has admitted, and also tried to show Singh had corrupt relationships with officials in the Town of Oyster Bay before Edward Mangano became county executive.
Singh recalled how he won town concession agreements by relying on relationships he'd made with Oyster Bay's Republican establishment while working on the deals with Frederick Mei, a former deputy town attorney.
"It was a deeply criminal relationship, correct?" Keating asked.
"I paid him bribes, correct," Singh replied of Mei.
The witness' cross-examination continues Tuesday.