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Power on Trial: Singh testifies for second day; defense gets its turn

Harendra Singh is seen outside federal court in

Harendra Singh is seen outside federal court in Central Islip on Aug. 1, 2018. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The eyes have it

As the retrial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda Mangano, entered its third week on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile continued the government’s questioning of former restaurateur Harendra Singh for a second day.

Mirabile projected a copy of Singh’s bid for a bread and rolls contract at the Nassau County jail, on the courtroom’s big screen.

The document loomed large — above and behind the witness stand.

But Singh appeared to be squinting at the exhibit, which also was on a computer screen in front of him.

“You got your glasses?” Mirabile asked.

“No, I can’t find . . .” Singh began as he checked multiple pockets of his jacket.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz came to the rescue, passing her (presumably reading) glasses to Mirabile.

"Your honor, can I approach with a spare pair of glasses?" Mirabile asked.

Singh put Treinis Gatz’s black-frame glasses right on.

"Do they work?" the judge asked.

"Yes, yes, thank you," Singh replied.

A short time later, an FBI agent entered the courtroom with Singh's glasses.

Singh got them back at the break.

Until then, the prosecution’s major cooperating witnesses continued observing the proceedings — literally through prosecution lenses.

Little gold Corvette

At one point, Mirabile asked to enter what appeared to be an Instagram screenshot of Edward Mangano’s gold Corvette convertible (with side exhaust pipes) into evidence.

Kevin Keating, Mangano's defense attorney, was allowed to ask Singh a few questions about the car, which did not come up in the first trial, before the photo was allowed in.

“This would be kept in the garage?” Keating asked.

“Yeah, I had seen it in his garage,” Singh answered.

You knew, Keating continued, “that he had had it forever?”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘forever,’ ” Singh replied, “but I know he had it for a long time.”

Left — for now, at least — unanswered, even as Mirabile’s questioning continued, was what relevance the sports car had to the prosecution.

Jail talk

Singh drew the strongest reaction yet from Mangano supporters when he — as he did during his first day on the stand last week — put more words into the Manganos' mouths.

Asked by Mirabile what reaction Linda and Edward Mangano had once he was summoned to their home hours after Linda Mangano had received a federal subpoena, he said that he found Linda Mangano crying.

“Oh, my God,” Singh quoted her as saying, “I’m going to jail.”

Singh said Edward Mangano was crying, too.

“Don’t worry,” Singh quoted him as saying, “I’m going to jail, not you.”

Friendship

Singh, in retrial testimony, has described his friendship with the Manganos in harsher terms than he did during the first trial.

Last time around, he acknowledged a friendship with the Manganos, while at the same time testifying that he saw Mangano’s election as a plus for his businesses.

On Monday, Singh testified that he went to the Mangano household four, five, sometimes even six, times a week.

Mirabile asked: Why go to the Mangano home?

“To socialize with Ed,” Singh replied, and then he went on to elaborate: “It was the best place to discuss whatever I needed help with.”

Thoroughly modern

Singh, in response to prosecution questioning, said Linda Mangano did nothing — or next to nothing — for the $100,000 or so he paid her a year.

At one point, Mirabile asked how many times Linda Mangano had visited Singh’s offices in Bethpage.

“One time,” Singh answered, saying Linda Mangano had expressed interest in seeing a copying machine in the office.

A machine, he said, that went by the name “Millie,” which he did not spell.

“You had a copy machine named Millie?” Mirabile asked.

“Yes,” Singh answered.

“And she came to see Millie?” Mirabile asked.

“Yes,” Singh said.

For the defense

Keating wasted no time Monday trying to lay waste to Singh’s credibility.

He asked: How many times have you lied in the last 20 years?

“I don’t know,” came the reply.

“Thousands?” Keating pressed.

“Could be,” Singh replied.

“Could be less,” he added.

Keating then led Singh through a litany of misdeeds, from bribery to income tax evasion to loan schemes, to cheating his father and much more — most of which Singh acknowledged.

“Mr. Singh,” Keating said at one point, “I have just scratched the surface of your life …”

From his seat, Edward Mangano — as he had during the first trial — glared at his family’s former friend.

Paperweight

Keating, who asked plentiful questions about Singh’s relationship to the Town of Oyster Bay, at one point zeroed in on a paperweight, which Keating said former town Planning Commissioner Frederick Ippolito once kept in his office.

He asked whether Singh knew if Ippolito had a system of soliciting payments, based on how high the stack of paper was under the paperweight.

“I knew that Fred Ippolito had a different way of getting money,” Singh answered, but said he knew nothing about a paperweight.

Earlier, Singh was asked whether he had given money to Ippolito in exchange for aiding Singh clients who needed help from the town.

“I had not given money to Fred Ippolito,” Singh answered.

“I had bought a restaurant from him,” Singh went on, “but I did not give him cash.”

Ippolito died in prison in 2017, after pleading guilty to federal tax charges.

Carefree

Keating said Singh did not care about employees he pressed into carrying out some of his schemes.

“When you did that, you did not give a hoot about your staff members you would be pulling into this,” Keating pressed.

Singh hemmed a bit before acknowledging, “but, no, I didn’t care.”

The topic came up again when Singh was asked about how well he knew the inner workings of Oyster Bay Town government.

“I really didn’t know or care about the inner workings of Oyster Bay,” Singh replied, “That is not what mattered to me.”

What did, Singh said, was that he got whatever he needed from the town to help his businesses.

Club Med it's not

Keating asked about Singh’s time in a federal detention facility in Brooklyn, “which is a hell hole.”

Singh disagreed.

“I wouldn’t say hell hole,” he replied. “They didn’t beat me up every day.”

Still, Singh acknowledged, “but this was not a Club Med either.”

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