This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler and Emily Ngo. It was written by Ngo.
Edward Mangano, as Nassau County executive, paid for some of his meals and even instructed his friend Harendra Singh to charge his campaign for events, the restaurateur acknowledged Wednesday in Mangano’s federal corruption trial.
Singh has pleaded guilty to bribing Mangano with perks that included free meals, but Mangano’s lawyer cited for jurors in Central Islip the instances when Mangano did pick up the bill.
Defense attorney Kevin Keating of Garden City presented as evidence a credit card statement showing Mangano paid $441.97 and tipped $100 during a visit to Singh’s H.R. Singletons restaurant in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
Singh responded that Mangano and other county officials days earlier had dined at the establishment for free.
Keating pressed Singh on his disclosure that Mangano told him after winning election in 2009: “Any event we do based on my campaign, you can charge, especially since you’re doing so many things for me.”
Singh responded that “the discount was still there.”
Keating asked Singh about the August 2010 vacation that the Mangano and Singh families took together to Niagara Falls.
“One dinner . . . that’s all they paid for,” Singh said, before admitting that Mangano “could have” covered a second meal.
Keating sought with his continued cross-examination to show that Singh — the prosecution’s star witness — did not always get what he wanted from the county executive and that Singh sometimes reached out to Mangano as a friend, doing so without expectation of something in return.
Keating also sought to show that Mangano, his family and his campaign did pay their own way on occasion.
Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, face charges that include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud.
Mangano’s wife, Linda, 54, also of Bethpage, faces charges that include conspiracy to obstruct justice.
They have pleaded not guilty and are standing trial together.
Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, pleaded guilty to bribing Edward Mangano with, among other perks, free vacations for his family, a massage and office chair each costing about $3,000, a $7,000 luxury watch for his son and a no-show job for his wife totaling $450,000 in pay. Singh said he gave Venditto free limousine service, free meals and discounted use of his venues. Singh said he received county contracts and millions in town-guaranteed business loans in exchange.
He testified earlier in the trial that he received an emergency, no-bid contract to provide meals to county workers toiling during Sandy recovery efforts. The rank-and-file received meals such as chicken and pasta while the VIPs, who included Mangano, dined on “special food” such as steak, shrimp and veal, Singh had said.
Keating on Wednesday tried to distance Mangano from the episode.
The contract was initiated by Health Commissioner Larry Eisenstein and negotiated with now-deceased Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Craft and his aide Raquel Wolf, a former Singh employee, Singh acknowledged.
Mangano was not involved, Singh said.
Singh testified that he did not communicate with Mangano about the fancier meals for top-tier officials and instead spoke about them with Mangano’s secretary and then-county Sheriff Michael Sposato.
Mangano was “working day and night. I don’t know how many hours he slept, but I know he was working very hard,” Singh said of his former friend.
“Do you think Ed Mangano during Hurricane Sandy gave a hoot about what he ate?” Keating asked.
“Yes,” Singh replied.
Keating presented for jurors text message conversations showing Singh offered the special food and Mangano’s aides did not first request it.
“There are no texts on that issue, of course, with Ed Mangano?” Keating asked.
Mangano’s defense attorney with his second full day of cross-examining Singh also pressed the witness on submitting fraudulent paperwork to authorities, including the IRS.
Singh explained that he filed returns with the IRS that overstated expenses and underreported income but gave lenders returns that reflected the opposite.
“There are no real tax returns, are there?” Keating asked.
“You can say that,” Singh replied.
Singh testified that when he was looking for new sources of funding that Oyster Bay Town would guarantee, then-deputy town attorney Frederick Mei “reworded” a Singh biography necessary to secure a loan.
Keating read from the biography showing Singh had a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in business administration.
“That is untrue,” Singh acknowledged as Keating noted Singh has only an associate’s degree in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
The biography and other faked documents resulted in one of his town-guaranteed loans, Singh said.
Singh said he gave Mei $10,000 in cash when Mei helped him secure a second loan.
Asked if he delivered the bribe in the same manner as he had for the first loan, Singh said yes.
“I had walked to his car and I put it in the glove compartment,” Singh said.
Mei, who has pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Singh that included cash as well as payments for the lease of his BMW, is expected to be a prosecution witness.
Additionally Wednesday, Singh said the Manganos came to annual events held on behalf of Singh’s father’s foundation, which funded medical care in India, and always paid out of their own pockets.
One year, Edward Mangano’s campaign donated $5,000 to the foundation, Singh said.
Keating asked about a $2,500 donation the Manganos had made.
“I believe they had bought a cow,” Singh said.
“A cow?” U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack interjected, as some jurors laughed. “Please explain.”
The cow would provide milk for patients, Singh said. Donors could also buy a chicken or a lamb, he said.
“You’re not buying an actual cow,” Azrack said, but Singh assured her that was the case.
Also Wednesday, Azrack denied a defense motion to allow into the Mangano case a June ruling by another federal judge that the loan guarantees Singh received were invalid.
Azrack said that civil case was still on appeal, and she didn’t “think that there was a complete record.”
Testimony by Singh may have left the jury with the impression that the “residents of the Town have paid, or are required to pay, the nearly $20 million in loans that Mr. Singh took out,” the defense attorneys argued in their unsuccessful filing.
Prosecutors have argued that the issue in the criminal case is not whether the loan guarantees were illegal, but that they were obtained through an illegal bribery scheme.