This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
A former executive chef with what once was Harendra Singh’s restaurant empire testified Wednesday that former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto are among the VIPs who ate for free under the “H comp.”
Dave Salony, who worked for Singh from 1982 to 2014, said employees knew to deliver top-notch service to Singh’s “political friends” and use the “H comp” button — a nod to Singh’s nickname — on restaurant software to account for free meals.
Singh has testified in the federal corruption trial of Edward Mangano and Venditto that he bribed them with meals on the house and other benefits in exchange for help securing county contracts and town-guaranteed loans.
The alleged scheme behind Singh’s first line of credit also was a focus Wednesday as an attorney whose law firm prosecutors say advised the town on sidestepping the state constitution and indirectly guaranteeing the loans said repeatedly from the stand that he didn’t remember details surrounding the process.
William Savino, of Rivkin Radler LLP of Uniondale, where Mangano had worked, answered questions with variations of “I don’t recall” and “I don’t have a recollection.”
Asked who invited him to the pivotal April 28, 2010 meeting at Venditto’s campaign headquarters in North Massapequa — where Singh testified officials gathered to devise a plan to get him loans — Savino responded: “I don’t have a recollection. My best estimate was Len Genova.”
Genova is a former town attorney who has now immunity.
Asked if Singh or others spoke and what they said, Savino answered: “I do not recall.”
Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, have been charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services fraud, among other alleged crimes. Mangano additionally faces an extortion charge, and Venditto also faces a securities fraud charge.
Charges against Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, include obstructing justice and making false statements to the FBI.
The three have pleaded not guilty.
Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, pleaded guilty to bribing Edward Mangano and Venditto with perks including a no-show job for Linda Mangano totaling $450,000 in pay, free vacations for the Manganos and free limousine services for Venditto.
The trial of the Manganos and Venditto is in its fifth week in Central Islip.
Salony was the latest of former Singh employees to testify that they either didn’t know that Linda Mangano worked for the company or never saw her at work there.
“While I was working there I had no idea Linda was working for Singh or the hospitality group,” Salony said.
Salony also said Venditto got special, off-menu meals when he worked out of the basement conference room at H.R. Singletons, Singh’s flagship eatery in Bethpage.
The supervisor liked angel hair pasta with clams, Salony said.
“Mr. Singh wanted me to have angel hair pasta in the house, which we did not have on the menu, so the ‘supe’ could order his angel hair pasta,” Salony said.
Salony also said that at Singh’s request, he and his staff would prepare special meals for Singh’s friends around certain holidays.
“We’d deliver trays to the Mangano house, like on Christmas Eve, for example,” Salony said.
Later Wednesday, Savino’s pattern of answers citing his limited recollection of events led U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack to summon attorneys to talk with her confidentially and then dismiss jurors for a brief break.
After the break, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile submitted as evidence Savino’s own notes, billing invoices and phone records to encourage more detailed testimony.
Savino, who described Mangano as a friend and said he was the master of ceremonies at both of Mangano’s inauguration ceremonies, confirmed that Rivkin Radler received a subpoena for its records.
Mirabile presented to Savino phone records showing Mangano called him on his cell phone on April 13, 2010, and the two had a conversation lasting 11 or 12 minutes.
Savino said he had no independent memory of the talk.
The prosecutor showed Savino notes he took from the call.
His notes mention “Len Genova” and “Mr. H” and a license agreement for Tobay Beach “extended to 2049 ... but had to make cap improvements.”
They also say: “been told NYS const prohibits.”
Savino also wrote a phone number for “Freddie May” referring to Frederick Mei, a former deputy town attorney who has since pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Singh.
Asked why he wrote down Genova’s name, Savino said: “I cannot recollect.”
Mirabile also showed Savino an invoice he filled out on April 14, 2010, outlining work he had done for Oyster Bay on the loan guarantee.
The invoice says he had a call with Genova “outlining relevant facts and addressing certain legal issues presented by license transaction.” The invoice ads that he “spoke with FM,” meaning Mei, about “obtaining further additional facts and baseline opinion to date.”
Asked what Rivkin Radler was being tasked with, Savino referred to what was outlined in the invoice: “As to whether or not a municipality such as the Town of Oyster Bay could lend its credit worthiness to a third party.”
In another set of notes that Savino confirmed were his, he had written that his firm couldn’t endorse the idea of the town guaranteeing the loan but suggested some options. One of them was the eventual solution, which was that the bank accept an assignment of the town’s concession in case of default.
The bank’s chief lending officer, Thomas Gilmartin, had testified Tuesday that he saw that as equivalent to a guarantee.
Savino said he couldn’t recall if those notes were written before or after the April 28 meeting.
Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, questioned Savino on his notes from the phone call with Mangano.
Keating suggested the call was actually with Genova. Mirabile earlier showed an email in which Savino’s assistant said Genova had called that day.
“Mr. Savino, you’ve used the phrase you ‘don’t have an independent recollection.’ You’ve used that phrase with some frequency today,” Keating began.
Savino had said some “indicators” on the notes suggested he was talking with Mangano, but he didn’t remember the conversation itself. “None of these indicators have anything to do with the Town of Oyster Bay,” he said.
Yet, the body of the notes included Genova’s name and outlined issues related to the loan guarantee.
Savino denied that Mangano could have pressured him to take a particular position on the loan guarantee. He said no one could have pressured him.
“He couldn’t,” Savino said.
“You couldn’t,” he said of the judge.
“They couldn’t,” he said of the jury. “No one could.”