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Witnesses: Linda Mangano had little or no work involvement in Singh restaurants

Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his

Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda Mangano, arrive at federal court in Central Islip on Tuesday. Credit: James Carbone

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

Linda Mangano's perch in a top marketing position at Harendra Singh's company was completely unknown to many of the people who handled that work for the restaurateur, testimony showed Tuesday at the corruption retrial of the former Nassau County executive and his wife.

Prosecutors are aiming to prove the former GOP official's spouse lied to the FBI about her alleged $450,000 "no-show" job that they say was also a bribe from Singh to Edward Mangano.

Outside contractors and in-house employees who did marketing for Singh Hospitality Group took the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Central Islip in the trial's fifth week to say they had little or no contact with Linda Mangano in the workplace.

Witnesses also described handling tasks the Bethpage woman took credit for when the FBI came knocking in 2015 to ask about her role in Singh's business, statements that now have her facing charges that include allegations she lied 11 times to federal officials.

Bullfrog Communications company owner John Stevens testified Tuesday that his Greenlawn firm handled most of the marketing work for Singh’s restaurants for a period that started in mid-2010.

He said Bullfrog’s work included creating menus for nearly all of Singh’s restaurants, along with handling promotional materials for the business.

“We were intimately involved with a lot of what they did,” Stevens said. “We were a part of their inner workings.”

But the witness testified that Linda Mangano wasn’t part of that picture, which he said included Bullfrog being in touch “multiple times a day” with Singh employees,  including general managers and chefs.

“How often was Mrs. Mangano involved?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Caffarone asked.

“That never happened,” Stevens replied.

The witness also said there “never” was a time when Singh employees credited Linda Mangano with any marketing ideas.

The Greenlawn communications company owner recalled a single conversation with Linda Mangano after she called to ask him for some marketing materials so she could publish an ad in the Bethpage Tribune,  a weekly paper she ran.

But Stevens said that at that time he didn’t think Linda Mangano worked for Singh and  he said she didn’t define her role at the newspaper. 

A grand jury’s indictment against the Manganos alleges in part that Linda Mangano lied when she told the FBI she handled menu changes for Singh, and again when she said she met him three or four times a week at her home to discuss her menu design ideas.

Her alleged lies also include her saying she provided input on the menu for at least three of Singh's restaurants, including Fuego Picante in East Meadow. She also lied  in saying she spent about two days a week working in the Jericho office of the company that hired her in 2014 after she stopped working for Singh, according to the government. 

Prosecutors say Singh began paying Linda Mangano $100,000 a year starting in April 2010 as one of several bribes the former self-described "restaurant mogul" paid Edward Mangano after the GOP official ascended that January. to the top spot in Nassau's government 

Other alleged bribes included free meals and travel, two luxury chairs, wood flooring for the couple's bedroom and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of their sons.

The government claims Edward Mangano paid Singh back by steering two county contracts to him that together were worth more than $400,000, and using his political clout to push through the Town of Oyster Bay's backing of $20 million in loans for the restaurateur.

Linda Mangano, 55, is facing five felony charges that include making false statements to the FBI, along with obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

Edward Mangano, 56, is on trial  on seven felony charges that include bribery, extortion and conspiracy.

The Bethpage couple's first trial lasted three months and ended in May in a mistrial. As part of  that proceeding, jurors acquitted former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto  of corruption charges.

The Manganos' defense team has portrayed Singh, 60, of Laurel Hollow, as a liar and a cheat who is trying to gain leniency before his sentencing for bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and tax evasion by testifying against the couple. The perks he gave them, according to the defense, were simply gifts from a longtime family friend.

Also Tuesday, the owner of an East Northport graphic design company testified about her work for Singh’s business in 2012 that lasted about a year and included a logo redesign, a rebranding of Singh's business, and help revamping Fuego Picante's menu.

Jan Guarino of Guarino Graphics said she worked with Singh, his executive assistant and some of his company’s top officials, but never spoke to Linda Mangano or saw her at a meeting.

She acknowledged later during questioning by Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman, that she had no idea what went on at Singh’s business outside of the time she worked for the restaurateur — who still owes her about $2,000.

A graphic designer who worked for Singh's company starting in October 2010 before his firing less than six months later testified Tuesday that he worked on the menu for Fuego Picante, but never with Linda Mangano.

The witness, George Feis, said he never heard Singh or anyone else at the company mention her.  

Another short-term Singh employee, Tara Baglietto, testified she worked on menus during her six-month stint at the company's Chow Down Diner in 2014 but Linda Mangano had no involvement and wasn't part of any meetings.

Baglietto said she exchanged emails with Linda Mangano about ads for the Bethpage Tribune, which she thought Linda was publishing as a friend of Harendra Singh and his wife, Ruby.

Lisa Graham, who worked as Singh’s graphic design and advertising director from 2007 to 2010, testified she left the in-house job because it was clear the restaurateur was having “financial difficulties.”

Graham said she had a heavy workload because she was responsible for all company marketing materials. She said she asked Singh for help with the work, for which she was to earn $35,000 at the start, and $42,000 at the end — with half paid in cash — but never got any.

In mid-April 2010, Singh ran an ad seeking  a replacement for Graham, according to evidence the government showed in court.

The ad was dated less than a week after Linda Mangano got her first paycheck in April 2010, shortly after her husband became county executive.

Jurors also heard Tuesday from the Jericho medical billing company founder and CEO who hired Linda Mangano in August or September of 2014, after her job with Singh had ended.

Porteck CEO Arvind Walia, who didn't testify in the first trial, said Linda Mangano came to the office two or three times a month — not about two days a week as she allegedly told the FBI — after he hired her at a $75,000 annual salary.

The witness said he made the hire after a request from his biggest client, Anish Berry.

In 2010, Edward Mangano named Berry to Nassau's Board of Health, Walia said.

In her nine months with Porteck, the county executive's wife worked on six to eight projects, including three to four charity events and a quarterly newsletter, Walia told the prosecution.

Walia acknowledged later  to the defense it was possible Linda Mangano worked in the office, which she wasn't required to do, more than he knew. He also said her location didn't matter much because she did her work and was an intelligent and competent employee.

After Walia's testimony ended and the jury left, tears showed in Linda Mangano's eyes on a day that had thrust her into the spotlight as the prosecution neared the end of its witness list.