This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Murphy.
Harendra Singh testified Wednesday at the corruption retrial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano that he once “may have” told prosecutors that a county legislator sent his way a contract to supply bread and rolls to the county jail — a deal the defendant is accused of steering to Singh as an illegal kickback.
The star prosecution witness’ testimony came as Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, attacked the government’s contention that his client was the driving force behind Singh’s landing that deal and another contract to supply meals to emergency operations center workers after superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012.
Singh acknowledged Wednesday that before the storm, more than two years after Mangano ascended to the helm of Nassau’s government, he hadn’t won a single county contract.
“It took an act of God on Long Island?” Keating asked.
“Yes,” Singh replied.
Prosecutors claim both contracts, together worth more than $400,000, were illicit paybacks that the former county executive provided in exchange for a stream of bribes that Singh lavished on him and his family after Mangano’s 2009 election.
Keating’s continued cross-examination of Singh, 60, of Laurel Hollow, came on the witness’ fourth day of testimony in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. The former county executive and his wife, Linda Mangano, are standing trial on felony charges that include conspiracy to obstruct a grand jury investigation.
The prosecution contends Edward Mangano steered the bread and rolls contract from a low bidder to Singh. County purchasing officials have testified they felt pressured to split the contract between Singh and another company that said it would never accept such an arrangement. Singh’s company eventually had to back out when his bakery couldn’t handle the volume.
The defense claims Singh won part of the contract after the late Peter Schmitt, the former presiding officer of Nassau’s legislature, stressed that contracts should go to local vendors Schmitt suggested the bid be split and awarded by line items between Singh’s bakery and the Rockland contractor after there was a tie in the sealed bids for $185,000 of a $193,000 contract, Keating has told jurors.
Despite Singh’s prior testimony that he received the contract in exchange for bribes to Edward Mangano, on Wednesday the defense attorney got him to concede it was possible he had told federal prosecutors in a June 2016 meeting, after he had started cooperating with the government, that it came his way through Schmitt.
“I may have said that,” Singh told Keating, .
Edward Mangano, 56, faces seven charges in all, including federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud and extortion.
Linda Mangano is charged with lying to the FBI in an attempt to try to cover up what the government says was a “no-show” job with Singh in which he paid her $450,000 — one of the alleged bribes of her husband.
The Bethpage couple’s first trial ended in a mistrial last year.
Keating tried on Wednesday to cast doubt on Singh’s account that Edward Mangano first raised the idea of Singh’s San Remo Bakery getting the jail contract when Singh brought cookies, pastries and bread to the Manganos’ home in 2010 after acquiring the Massapequa shop.
“So Ed eats some cookies and pastries from an Italian bakery and says maybe you can provide 150,000 loaves of white bread at the Nassau County jail?” Keating asked Singh.
“I brought some bread as well, and he was very fond of the bread,” Singh replied.
“Was it a baguette?” Keating asked.
Singh said he didn’t recall.
Earlier in the retrial, Singh testified he met with Michael Sposato, then Nassau’s sheriff and in charge of running the jail under Mangano’s administration, between 20 and 25 times in 2012 to lobby for the contract.
The prosecution witness testified that the two even used code words at Sposato’s request when texting about the deal, and said they often met at a Hicksville pancake house.
But Keating sought on Wednesday to distance his client from the bread and rolls deal by pointing out that Singh met Sposato through Timothy Driscoll, a state Supreme Court justice, not through Edward Mangano.
Singh testified initially Wednesday that he wasn’t friends with Sposato and met with him only about the bread and rolls contract.
However, Keating then seized on Singh’s testimony from the Manganos’ first trial, quoting Singh as saying he met the sheriff before Mangano became county executive and “that developed into a friendship where we talked once a week.”
Singh also conceded, after Keating confronted him with text messages, that he kept meeting with Sposato for pancakes almost monthly in 2014, long after the bread and rolls contract issue was settled.
Keating also suggested in his questioning Wednesday that it was not Edward Mangano, but other county employees who were part of Nassau’s post-superstorm Sandy relief efforts who pushed an emergency, no-bid contract worth more than $230,000, to Singh in 2012.
Keating used Singh’s prior testimony and emails and text messages to present the alternate theory. He identified the other county workers as the late Craig Craft, then Nassau’s Emergency Management commissioner, along with Larry Eisenstein, the health commissioner, and Raquel Wolf, an emergency operations employee and former full-time Singh worker.
Keating aimed to show through the cross-examination that Singh had relationships with all of those people and had ingratiated himself to them in various ways, including job recommendations, awards and free meals.
Singh confirmed his father’s charitable foundation had honored Eisenstein. Singh also confirmed that Wolf continued to do marketing work for his business while working for the county. The witness also agreed, after first disagreeing but being pointed to testimony from the first trial, that he also gave complimentary meals to Craft.
Keating also tried to put forth the idea that Mangano was too busy dealing with Sandy’s aftermath to worry about getting Singh a contract.
“That man, Mr. Mangano, was working 20 hours a day?” Keating asked, pointing to his client in court.
“He was busy, yes,” Singh agreed.
Singh has testified previously that his bribes to the then-county executive included free food, five vacations, wood flooring for the Manganos’ bedroom, a $7,300 wristwatch for one of the couple’s sons and two luxury chairs.
But the defense contends Singh is testifying against the Manganos in a bid for leniency after pleading guilty in October 2016 to bribing public officials and tax evasion, and insists Edward Mangano took no official government action in exchange for what they’ve called gifts from a longtime family friend.
Keating introduced on Wednesday a text message exchange between Singh and Linda Mangano from around the time of her 50th birthday in 2013, in which Singh called it an “honor” to attend a party for her and said he loved her and her husband.
“Love you more,” Linda Mangano texted back.
In another exchange with Singh on Wednesday, Keating asked if the Manganos even wanted his gifts — a question that seemed to stun the witness.
Singh asked Keating to repeat it, which he did.
“They wanted them for their sons, but not themselves,” the witness then answered.
Then Keating showed text messages that Linda Mangano sent Singh in 2014 and 2015, in which she invited Singh to come over for her husband’s birthday celebrations.
“No gift. Just your friendship. Love u,” Linda Mangano wrote in 2014.
In 2015, she texted: “No gift. I will not let you in the door with a gift.”
The evidence prompted Singh to explain his view.
“By this time,” the witness testified, “Linda Mangano was on my payroll and I had done so much for them.”