This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Emily Ngo, Bridget Murphy and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
Restaurateur Harendra Singh on Thursday finished his testimony in the federal corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, after 13 days on the stand and as the prosecution challenged two crucial sets of evidence submitted by defense attorneys.
One week ago, Edward Mangano’s lawyer played for jurors a wiretapped phone call in which Singh is heard saying he has no stories about politicians to share with federal investigators.
On Tuesday, Linda Mangano’s lawyer displayed for jurors a series of emails in which she discusses work with Singh employees for what Singh has testified was her no-show job.
But on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile sought to show that Singh was lying to save himself at the time of the June 2015 phone call and that the work-related emails featuring Linda Mangano numbered only 40 and are concentrated in a three-month period in 2010.
Linda Mangano was paid $450,000 between 2010 and 2014, Singh has testified.
“That comes out to $11,400 an email, correct?” Mirabile asked.
Singh answered affirmatively.
In pushing back against the call, Mirabile noted at federal court in Central Islip that Singh has testified that he kept those he bribed in the dark about his other quid-pro-quo arrangements.
“Why did you lie?” Mirabile asked Singh of the call.
“I didn’t like to share what I was doing with anyone,” he replied. “I wanted to protect myself and obviously everyone else involved.”
Did Singh ever tell the Manganos, Venditto, former Deputy Town Attorney Frederick Mei or former Town Attorney Leonard Genova that he was bribing the others? Mirabile asked.
“You denied bribing everyone?” she continued.
“Correct,” Singh answered.
Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, has pleaded guilty to bribing Edward Mangano and Venditto in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in county contracts and millions of dollars in town-guaranteed loans. The bribes included the no-show job for Linda Mangano, free vacations for the Mangano family and free limousine services for Venditto, his family and his aides, Singh has testified.
Edward Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, have pleaded not guilty to charges that include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services fraud for both, extortion for Mangano and securities fraud for Venditto.
Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, has pleaded not guilty to charges including obstructing justice and making false statements to the FBI.
Their defense attorneys have attacked Singh’s credibility and continued to call him a liar Thursday.
“Harendra Singh has proven himself to be clinically incapable of telling the truth,” said Kevin Keating of Garden City, representing Edward Mangano, adding that over the course of Singh’s testimony, “he probably lied 1,000 times and he’s the centerpiece of the government’s case.”
“I think Singh gave us everything we needed. I think Singh has proven himself to be an extremely desperate person,” said John Carman of Garden City. “As a human being, I have sympathy for him. But as Linda Mangano’s attorney, I don’t.”
“This is a plot hatched by Singh and he recruited Mei and that’s where it begins and ends,” said Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, Venditto’s lawyer.
Keating on Thursday with his final questions for Singh stressed that Singh did not know he was being recorded either in the wiretapped phone call or a March 2015 conversation, captured by Mei on an FBI body wire, during which Singh says he got “nothing, nothing” from Edward Mangano in exchange for gestures such as hiring Linda Mangano.
Singh maintained that he was lying in those exchanges.
Earlier in the day, Mirabile sought to reject the defense’s contention that Singh gave the Manganos and Venditto benefits because they were friends.
“How many of friends other than Linda Mangano did you give a no-show job?” Mirabile asked Singh.
“None,” Singh said.
Venditto’s son, Michael, a former county legislator and state senator, had worked as a 16-year-old as a “weed picker” at a town-owned golf course where Singh was concessionaire and referenced Singh in a text message as “uncle,” according to testimony and evidence from Wednesday.
Mirabile asked Singh on Thursday if he had paid for a Bentley at the wedding of any other weed pickers.
“No one,” Singh replied.
“Did your ‘nephew’ invite you to his wedding?” Mirabile asked.
“No,” Singh replied.
Thursday began with Agnifilo, Venditto’s attorney, submitting as evidence several checks demonstrating Venditto’s campaign paid for events hosted at Singh’s venues.
He showed jurors copies of checks dating back to 2006 in amounts ranging from $64 to $16,870, paid to various Singh businesses by the campaign, Friends of John Venditto.
Agnifilo showed jurors copies of checks dating back to 2006 in amounts ranging from $64 to $16,870, paid to various Singh businesses and Singh’s father’s foundation by the campaign.
Agnifilo also asked Singh about the phones he paid for.
Singh said several of them were for his three sons, but he also bought iPhones for Mei and then-town buildings Commissioner Frederick Ippolito.
“I paid for it, yes,” Singh said of Mei’s phone. “He wanted iPhone and I got him iPhone, yes.”
Mei, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Singh, and Genova, who has immunity, are expected to be prosecution witnesses.
Ippolito, 78, of Syosset, died last year while serving a 27-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in January 2016 to evading taxes in connection with $2 million in outside consulting fees he received while working as the town’s planning and development commissioner.
Singh said Mei’s iPhone was separate from burner phones he got for himself and Mei after the FBI interviewed Mei in late 2014. Singh said he and Mei used those phones — used because they are more difficult for authorities to trace — for a couple of months.
Singh said he never got burner phones for anyone else.
Mirabile picked up where Agnifilo left off.
She asked Singh how federal law enforcement officers came to learn about his use of burner phones.
Singh responded that he volunteered the information to the government.
The trial is scheduled to resume Monday in Central Islip with new witnesses.