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Ex-restaurant manager for Singh testifies he didn’t see Linda Mangano at eatery

Linda Mangano walks toward the entrance to the

Linda Mangano walks toward the entrance to the federal courthouse in Central Islip on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.

A former manager at what once was Harendra Singh’s East River eatery in Queens testified Wednesday that he never saw former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s wife, Linda, at the restaurant, that he communicated with her primarily by email and that he collaborated with her on only two projects.

Joseph Scalice, who managed the Water’s Edge, spoke to what Singh and prosecutors say is the no-show job Singh gave Linda Mangano as a means of bribing her husband.

Scalice, testifying in the federal corruption trial of Edward Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, estimated that Linda Mangano put “three or four days’ worth of work” into the two projects.

Work-related emails between Linda Mangano and Scalice were key evidence presented earlier in the trial by her defense attorney.

They led Singh to concede on the stand that Linda Mangano performed more work than he realized.

Scalice testified that he began communicating with Linda Mangano soon after he started at the Water’s Edge in April 2010.

Linda Mangano’s first check came that month, prosecutors say.

Singh introduced Scalice to Linda Mangano and told him to work with her, and the pair collaborated on reintroducing the Water’s Edge to New York City and an event to celebrate powerful women in Queens, Scalice said.

“The emails speak for themselves,” Scalice testified. “This was probably three or four days’ worth of work . . . I can’t fairly say how much time she put into it. I think they could have moved more quickly.”

Scalice said he put 60 percent to 70 percent of the work into the two projects.

Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman of Garden City, in the trial’s fourth week presented to the jury several emails she and Scalice exchanged.

Later that week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile said the emails numbered only 40 and are concentrated in a three-month period in 2010.

“That comes out to $11,400 an email, correct?” Mirabile asked, referencing the $450,000 that prosecutors say Mangano was paid between April 2010 and August 2014.

Singh answered affirmatively.

Singh, 59, of Laurel Hollow, pleaded guilty to bribing Edward Mangano and Venditto in exchange for county contracts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars and town-guaranteed loans totaling more than $20 million.

Edward Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, face charges that include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services wire fraud, extortion for Mangano and securities fraud for Venditto.

Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.

The three, standing trial together in Central Islip, have pleaded not guilty.

Their trial is in its seventh week.

Singh testified that he provided the one-time elected officials with benefits that included free meals at his restaurants, free limousine services for Venditto, his aides, his family and their guests, free vacations for Mangano and his family and the no-show job for Linda Mangano.

On Wednesday, Scalice told Carman that she always responded to his communications.

“She was responsive and professional and courteous with me at all times,” he said.

Earlier in the day, a lender testified that his bank, which was involved in Oyster Bay-backed loans for Singh, “felt uncomfortable” when the then-concessionaire failed to reach critical construction benchmarks that were conditions of the loans.

Howard Kurtzberg, vice president and general counsel of the Westchester-based NDH Capital, also said he sought unsuccessfully to meet with Venditto on the matter.

Kurtzberg said Scott Haber, owner of NDH, sought a meeting with Venditto to go over the terms of the two loans and to discuss possible future financing at a time when Singh was under consideration for a third town-backed loan deal.

NDH’s loans to Singh indirectly guaranteed by Oyster Bay, with interest, totaled $7.8 million in 2011 for the Woodlands, a catering hall on a town-owned golf course in Woodbury, and $12.2 million in 2012 for Tobay Beach.

A March 1, 2013, email between Haber, Singh and Barry Edelstein of Structured Growth Capital — which was forwarded to Kurtzberg — submitted as evidence shows Haber telling Singh he wants to meet Venditto.

“This request is a requirement,” Haber writes, adding: “Kindly arrange this meeting as soon as possible.”

Haber later writes to Kurtzberg: “Needless to say, he offered to set up a meeting with the Town of Oyster Bay commissioners and not the town supervisor.”

Haber, who also took the stand Wednesday, said both loans are now in default. He said he believes it’s a $15 million default, though Singh “has made a certain amount of payments.”

The NDH owner said the loans were both based on the town’s “AA” credit rating.

He said town officials gave assurances that whether Singh succeeded or didn’t, the town was responsible for the payments in “any scenario,” including if a facility “burned down.”

Toward the end of the day in court, Rafael Mendez, who was a manager at Singh’s H.R. Singletons restaurant in Bethpage for several years starting in 2010, testified that Edward Mangano received a bill for his meals there only about 20 percent of the time and the food was otherwise paid for by Singh.

He said Mangano preferred “a burger, chicken Francese or something like that” and Linda Mangano liked the “country salad with shrimp.”

Edward Mangano’s defense attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City asked: “Mrs. Mangano, on one occasion, chased you down the street with a $100 bill?”

Mendez said, “Yes.”

Carman stood up and asked: “Are you sure that Mrs. Mangano liked the chicken or the shrimp?”

Mendez paused and then said declaratively: “The shrimp.”

U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack chimed in: “I want to know if she caught you when she chased down the street.”

Mendez didn’t answer.

Linda Mangano nodded affirmatively from the defense table.

Carman, seated at the defense table, spoke under his breath: “Apparently, she did.”

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