Fast and furious
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile wasted zero time in having the government’s star witness, Harendra Singh, throw some cards on the table.
On Thursday, Mirabile moved Singh through a litany of alleged bribes to Edward Mangano — and at breakneck speed, compared to questioning during the first corruption trial of Mangano and his wife Linda last year. That case ended in a mistrial, and the Manganos are being retried in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
At 10:03 a.m. Thursday, Mirabile started things off by asking Singh whether he had pleaded guilty to any charges.
He said, yes, he had pleaded guilty to bribing officials in the City of New York, Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay.
“With whom did you commit those crimes?” Mirable asked?
Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, lodged an objection to the phrase “with whom he committed those crimes.”
There was a sidebar before Singh answered:
“I bribed Edward Mangano and he did favors for me like getting me a loan with Oyster Bay and contracts and whatever help I needed,” Singh said.
“”I gave him a no-show job for his wife, Linda Mangano, I took them on vacations, bought a massage chair, fixed the floor in his bedroom and things like that,” he went on.
At one point, he was asked to identify Mangano.
And later, Linda Mangano.
“Linda Mangano tried to convince me to lie to the FBI,” Singh went on.
Over the first several minutes of his testimony, Singh, under questioning from Mirabile, covered significantly more ground than he did during the first trial.
Linda Mangano’s arm, at one point, appeared to be shaking as she wiped away tears.
And in the spectator seats, one Mangano supporter later was heard to mutter, “Liar.”
Pay to play
Singh himself brought up the concept of “pay to play,” for the first time during the retrial.
Mirabile asked him to explain.
“You got to pay them, then you are inside of the room,” Singh answered. “If you don’t pay them, then you are outside the window.”
“You buy a ticket, buy them free food, meals, to give them whatever they request for,” he said.
Mirable asked, “Who did you pay?”
“Oyster Bay officials and Nassau County,” Singh replied, “Edward Mangano and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.”
At the mention of de Blasio’s name, several jurors appeared to be shocked — one juror’s jaw dropped.
Singh, in October 2016, secretly pleaded guilty to bribing Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, and trying to bribe a New York City elected official — later identified in court papers as de Blasio — with campaign contributions.
De Blasio was not charged, after prosecutors examined his relationship with Singh and his overall fundraising practices.
Venditto was acquitted of all charges when he was tried with the Manganos last year.
Asked to describe his relationship with Edward and Linda Mangano, Singh said, “We had a very good relationship, he was a friend.”
“My family and his family were friends.”
And then Singh went on, “We were not much more than that.”
At that assertion, Edward Mangano looked back toward the spectator seats, a look of disbelief on his face.
Day by day
During questioning this time around, Singh, the government’s key cooperating witness, attempted to more directly allude to a quid quo pro relationship with Edward Mangano.
He noted, for instance, that he had his company issue Linda Mangano her first paycheck [for what Singh called a no-show job] two days after outside counsel for Oyster Bay tossed water on an idea to have the municipality back loans for Singh’s businesses.
Singh also said he was asked to buy an expensive watch for one of the Mangano sons — at the same time Singh was pushing to get a more than $200,000 emergency contract to provide food to emergency workers and Nassau County’s office of emergency services in the days after superstorm Sandy.
In addition, Singh — more firmly than in the first trial — attempted to tie Edward Mangano to an effort to get his quest for Oyster Bay Town-backed loans back on track after the outside counsel’s opinion.
During that time, Singh testified, he called Edward Mangano “almost every day, every other day, keeping up with my loans with the Town of Oyster Bay.”
“I was in panic mode,” Singh testified, after learning that Oyster Bay’s outside counsel, Jonathan Sinnreich, via email, had told town officials that the state constitution barred municipalities from backing private loans.
“Oh, my God,” Singh testified, “this is not going to happen now.”
Singh testified he then sought Mangano’s help.
“He suggested I could speak to his old law firm, Rivkin Radler,” Singh testified, noting that two attorneys from the firm showed up days later at a meeting also attended by Edward Mangano and Venditto, to discuss how to resolve the state constitutional issue.
Singh testified that at some point later, after hearing a solution had been found, he called Edward Mangano with the news.
“He said, ‘That is great, that is wonderful,’ " Singh, who several times on Thursday put words into Mangano’s mouth, testified. ‘I’m glad I could help.’”
Use it or lose it
Witnesses earlier this week said Singh began providing food to high-ranking officials at Nassau’s Office of Emergency Management center days before he received an emergency contract to feed rescue and other workers stationed there.
On Thursday, Singh testified about the source of some of that food.
He said that his flagship restaurant, HR Singleton’s, had no power for a few days after superstorm Sandy — and that, as a result, parties and other events slated at the restaurant had to be canceled.
As for food his firm had prepared for those parties?
“The option was to use it or throw it [away],” Singh testified.
Singh decided to use it — by volunteering, he said, to feed Mangano, county commissioners and others at OEM.
And the added bonus? The largesse “made Ed look good.”
A portion of the afternoon was spent listening to wiretaps and other secretly recorded conversations — two of which were not included as evidence in the first trial. In all four, Singh made some allusion to politicians and about how he received nothing from politicians.
Mirabile asked, four times, whether Singh had been telling the truth.
“No,” he replied, going on to explain that he did not want it known that he was paying bribes.
“It was nobody’s business,” he said.
“This is not something you tell everyone,” he said a few minutes later.
“It’s between the person who was taking, the person who was giving,” he said.
But he offered up a couple of other justifications as well.
In referring to Frederick Mei, a former Oyster Bay deputy town attorney who testified in the first trial under a grant of immunity, Singh said he had no reason to tell Mei — who was wearing a wire — that he paid others bribes.
“He will say, ‘Give me more, what are you throwing, crumbs to me.’ ”
And in talking to a longtime friend, Singh testified, he said nothing about bribes because, “I didn’t want him to look down upon me.”