This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, his family and his staff traveled in style on restaurateur Harendra Singh’s dime, frequently using limousines and black cars for their nights out, Singh testified Thursday.
Former Deputy Town Attorney Frederick Mei lived even larger thanks to Singh, who paid for his travel to Costa Rica and India and picked up the lease for his BMW, Singh testified.
“I had millions of dollars invested in Oyster Bay,” Singh said. “When someone from the town asked you to do something, you get it done.”
Singh took the stand for the fourth day in Central Islip to detail the perks he showered on officials in exchange for their help in arranging millions of dollars in indirect loan guarantees for his town-connected businesses.
He is the federal prosecutors’ key witness in their corruption case against former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, and Venditto.
Receipts and email confirmations presented in court Thursday as evidence showed each ride for Venditto and his inner circle typically cost Singh in the hundreds of dollars.
Then-Deputy Town Supervisor Leonard Genova also asked for rides, and Singh estimated that Genova’s trips totaled about 100 in count and $15,000 in cost.
Singh said he provided high-end transportation for the wedding festivities of Venditto’s son, Michael: $1,000 for an 18-passenger Infinity limo for the bachelor party, $1,300 for a 30-passsenger van for the bachelorette party, and then on their special day, $1,738 for a 13-passenger white Lincoln Navigator for the groom and a four-passenger white Bentley for the bride.
Singh was not invited to the wedding.
Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, pleaded guilty in October 2016 to bribing Edward Mangano and Venditto with benefits ranging from free meals at his restaurants to a no-show job for Linda Mangano that totaled $450,000 in pay.
Edward Mangano, 55, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, face charges including conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud. Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, faces charges including conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The three have pleaded not guilty.
Their defense attorneys have sought to undermine Singh’s credibility as a prosecution witness, saying he is lying in hopes of less prison time for his own crimes.
Singh also testified under oath that he sought to bribe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with campaign contributions in exchange for help with his Queens restaurant, Water’s Edge. Singh had pleaded guilty in October 2016 to that effort.
De Blasio’s fundraising was probed by Manhattan prosecutors, who declined to charge him but criticized his practices.
Singh testified Thursday that de Blasio asked for his fundraising help for Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), and Singh responded that he would use illegal straw donors.
“I don’t want to know. Just do what you’ve got to do,” de Blasio told Singh, according to Singh’s account.
Singh said he again suggested he would use straw donation — which typically entails contributing in a person’s name, then reimbursing them in order to skirt campaign finance limits set by law — when de Blasio asked for help with a state senatorial campaign.
De Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips said Thursday: “This administration acted appropriately at all times, as we’ve said several thousand times.”
Singh said he never gave de Blasio personal gifts as he did to Mangano and Venditto.
Much of Thursday’s testimony focused on how Venditto allegedly gained through his relationship with Singh.
Venditto’s limo rides included trips to the Metropolitan Opera, The Pierre hotel, Rockefeller Center and Giando on the Water, an Italian restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, according to prosecutors’ evidence.
Singh testified that, at Venditto’s request, he footed the cost of a weekend rendezvous for Venditto’s chief of staff, Rich Porcelli, and his mistress, paying for their meal at Water’s Edge, their hotel stay and their limo. Singh said he also paid for then-Nassau County district attorney investigator Michael Falzarano and his girlfriend to take a limo to Water’s Edge.
Venditto’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, in his opening statement last week sought to highlight that the former supervisor gained minimally — especially compared to Mei.
Citing Venditto’s decades of public service, the lawyer asked, “He’s going to throw it away, he’s going to throw out all of his work so he can get a discounted car ride?”
Mei, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Singh, is expected to be another prosecution witness.
Singh said he paid $5,000 for Mei’s trip to Costa Rica, $2,500 for a trip to India, and $6,000 for another trip to India.
“Fred Mei was the nuts-and-bolts guy,” Singh said of his business dealings with the town. “If his father likes to go to Italy or his niece likes to South Korea, I would pay for it.”
Singh said he also covered the lease for Mei’s BMW: $1,000 a month in cash for about 15 to 20 months.
Additionally, according to Singh, Mei was paid a secret fee after each of his town-guaranteed loans for improvements to his concessions was finalized. After the first loan closed, Mei complained to Singh that the other lawyers in the transactions all got attorney fees, Singh said.
“So I gave him $10,000,” Singh said.
Singh testified about an alleged money-laundering episode involving Ridge contractor Anthony Gulino, who installed a fence railing outside Mangano’s home.
According to Singh’s testimony:
Mangano came to Singh’s home and had Singh come into his car, where he handed Singh an envelope with $3,600 in cash.
Mangano told him he’d paid Gulino for his work with a check, but Gulino gave him the cash back.
“I don’t want these bills to be marked,” Mangano said.
Mangano was concerned that Gulino may have been trying to entrap him with cash that could be traced, Singh said.
“He didn’t want to carry them,” Singh said. “I said, ‘No problem, I would take care of it.’ ”
But first Mangano and Singh drove to nearby Oheka Castle.
“We saw Gary Melius and had a drink,” Singh said, referring to the Oheka Castle owner.
Singh testified that he then went to H.R. Singletons, his Bethpage restaurant, had all the bills swapped and drove to Mangano’s house with the new bills.
Singh said he knew to keep the episode quiet.
“This was not something to be shared with everybody,” he said. “This was not a legal enterprise.”
Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, objected to the last part of that answer, and U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack sustained it, ordering it to be struck from the record.
The trial is scheduled to continue Monday in Central Islip.