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Power on Trial: Singh gets testy under cross-examination

Harendra Singh is seen outside federal court in

Harendra Singh is seen outside federal court in Central Islip on Aug. 3, 2016. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Testy under fire

It didn’t take long for Harendra Singh — as he did during the first trial — to become testy as cross-examination continued Tuesday with Kevin Keating, Edward Mangano’s defense attorney.

“If you would let me explain,” Singh said early on Tuesday.

“I want you to answer my question,” Keating snapped back.

And so the two would spar for the rest of the day.

About a lease

At one point, Keating pushed Singh on the details of a lease under which the former restaurant mogul was supposed to pay the Town of Oyster Bay $8,000 a month.

“That would be $96,000 [a year], correct?” Keating asked.

“Twelve times eight is exactly 96,” Singh replied dryly.

Tomato, tomahto

Singh seemed to take issue with almost every descriptive offered up by Keating.

On plans to expand business with the Town of Oyster Bay:

Keating said, “You had bigger plans than that.”

And Singh answered, “Our plan was to expand the facility.”

On plans to continue renovating one town facility:

Keating said, “You said you wanted to, in my words, blow the facility out.”

Singh answered, “I said I wanted to expand the facility out.”

On town officials’ reactions to Singh’s work:

Keating said, “The supervisor was elated, is that fair to say?”

Singh answered, “The supervisor was very happy.”

To rig or not to rig

“The request for proposals was going to be kept intentionally vague so other vendors didn’t know what the town wanted?” Keating asked, regarding Singh’s quest to run the town's most lucrative beach concession.

“Yes,” Singh answered.

"That’s not bid-rigging?” Keating pressed.

“Maybe it is,” Singh — finally — conceded.

But then Singh, as he did with multiple other queries put to him by Keating, added a conditional. “At the time,” Singh said, “I did not think it was bid-rigging.”

In the year 2002

Keating introduced several exhibits that were not used during the first trial. Among them was a 2002 document wherein, Singh acknowledged, the town had agreed to indirectly back one of his loans.

The timing is significant — because Singh, in earlier testimony, said he needed Edward Mangano’s help in pushing then-town Supervisor John Venditto to have the town back millions of dollars in loans beginning in 2010.

Under questioning, Singh said the 2002 document required that “if money was owed to the concessionaire, then it would go back to the lender.”

Those terms were similar to two indirect loan guarantees Singh got from lenders with Oyster Bay’s backing beginning in 2010.

Asked about the 2002 arrangement, Singh, as questioning continued, tried to hedge a bit.

“Yes,” Singh said, acknowledging that 2002 agreement was similar to indirect loan guarantees backed by the town.

But, he added, “It was a small loan.”

Trial run

The room seemed to become still, but just for a split second, when Keating said to Singh: “I direct you to trial testimony.”

Whoopsies.

Under an order from U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack, prosecutors and attorneys are supposed to refer to last year’s trial as a “prior proceeding.”

Singletons lives on

Singh, apparently, has never lost his love for H.R. Singletons, his now long-shuttered restaurant in Bethpage.

Keating pushed Singh back hard on his earlier testimony about being asked by Mangano, during the early weeks of the Nassau County executive's first administration, to bring lunch from Singletons once a week for Mangano staffers.

“So Edward Mangano says the food . . . in Mineola is not very good?” Keating asked.

“He was used to the food, eating at my restaurants,” Singh replied.

Keating pressed on, expressing disbelief that Mangano would go out of his way for a “burger” from Singletons.

“Singletons didn’t just serve burgers,” Singh responded, quietly enough that the court reporter asked him to repeat the statement.

Food fight

“It was all about you!” Keating said to Singh, pressing harder about the lunches Singh provided Mangano staffers at no cost.

“The food was brought for you,” he went on, as some jurors leaned forward in their seats. “It was about you and your relentless desire to ingratiate yourself.”

“No,” Singh protested. “I was doing it so that they would be happy and comply with any request [he made] for the staff.”

“You had hopes and you had expectations, Mr. Singh …” Keating pressed on.

“. . . I knew Ed and he liked the food at Singletons,” Singh insisted.

Enough is enough

During afternoon testimony, Keating introduced a series of emails which showed Oyster Bay officials’ willingness to work with Singh — before and after an April 2010 meeting that Singh has insisted was necessary for Mangano to push town officials into agreeing to guarantee the businessman’s loans.

At several points, Singh agreed with Keating’s assertion that officials in Oyster Bay “never said no.”

Keating, however, went on to raise the question of why Mangano — whose presence at an April 2010 meeting, Singh has insisted, was essential to his getting town-guaranteed loans — afterward had nothing to do with Singh’s interaction with the town.

“By that time, his job was done,” Singh replied, referring to the 2010 meeting, during which, he acknowledged, Mangano said not one word.

There “was no reason to keep him” in later conversations or emails, Singh said.

Chicken feat

Keating questioned Singh about earlier statements he made to the government in which Singh said Ray Saccaro of West Star Capital had been involved in falsifying paperwork at Singh’s request.

“Mr. Singh, you had no knowledge as to whether Ray Saccaro was corrupt?” Keating asked.

“He did whatever needed to be done,” Singh replied.

“So, you didn’t care that Ray Saccaro was corrupt?” Keating asked a few moments later, going on to detail testimony from last year’s trial, during which Singh had acknowledged getting false documents from Saccaro.

“I know he was very helpful in securing the loans,” Singh replied. “Ray Saccaro did whatever I wanted him to do.”

Keating then reminded Singh of his testimony just minutes prior: “You said 20 minutes ago that he wasn’t corrupt?”

"I may have misspoken," Singh said.

But Keating kept it going.

“There was a Chicken Saccaro” on the Singletons menu, named after Ray, Keating pressed.

Yes, Singh answered, but insisted that the dish bore no connection to Saccaro’s work for him.

“Here he was creating a dish that was very popular,” Singh said, adding that it was a favorite of both Edward Mangano and one of his sons. (At which point, Linda Mangano, at the defense table, shook her head in disbelief.)

As Keating appeared ready to move to another topic, the judge asked, “Are you going to leave this line of questioning without asking what Saccaro chicken is?”

“I couldn’t care less, to be honest, your honor,” Keating replied.

But for the curious, a Google search of the menu says the dish was grilled chicken breast served with linguine and broccoli rabe — with a spicy cherry-pepper lemon sauce.

It was $17.95.

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