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Power on Trial: Town knew it was backing Singh loans, witness says

Harendra Singh leaves the federal courthouse in Central

Harendra Singh leaves the federal courthouse in Central Islip on March 8. Credit: James Carbone

On the hook

Howard Kurtzberg, vice president and general counsel of NDH Capital, the firm that brokered two loans to former restaurateur Harendra Singh, testified Tuesday afternoon that Oyster Bay officials knew — and agreed — as early as 2011 that the town would be on the hook should Singh default on his loans.

Kurtzberg was a witness in the trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.

During a meeting with town officials, he testified, the firm repeatedly told the town that should Singh default, “you are going to pay no matter what.”

Town officials, in response, signaled to the firm Oyster Bay’s willingness to back Singh, he said.

“They were saying, ‘OK, what’s the next step? Where do we go from here?’” Kurtzberg testified.

Pitching the county

Jurors got to see emails and notes Kurtzberg took during his dealings with Oyster Bay officials. Among them was a reference to an introduction Singh made to Mangano for NDH officials.

“Dear Ed,” one email from NDH’s owner, Scott Haber, began, in making his pitch.

Haber said NDH wanted a meeting to discuss the potential of structuring loans “similar to the two financings we provided for H. Singh and the Town of Oyster Bay, which is what we are looking to accomplish for you in Nassau County.”

Kurtzberg said the pitch came to nothing, however.

“We were told, don’t expect Nassau County to do the same thing,” he testified, because the county was under a state control board.

As a result, he said, “Nassau County wouldn’t be able to move the way Oyster Bay did.”

On the front line

Heather McNeill, a former county OEM employee, joined Nassau’s emergency agency as a secretary and, she testified, later was moved up — but only to make room for someone else to take the secretarial job.

Even with the promotion and a college degree in communications and emergency management, McNeill said, she would find out that she was being paid $10,000 less than another, less-experienced employee, Raquel Wolf.

Wolf had once worked for Singh — who had recommended her to Edward Mangano for a job after Wolf married another Singh employee.

Earlier, Singh testified that he did not like having married employees working for his company (although his wife, Ruby, did work for the company).

McNeill testified that she slept in her “closet of an office” during and after superstorm Sandy in 2012. She said she changed toilet paper rolls, and was asked to clean up the “mess” left after one of Singh’s special VIP meals was delivered to OEM director Craig Craft’s office.

McNeill testified that Craft, who died last year, ran OEM “like a frat house.”

“He would leave decisions to the county executive’s office, to the adults,” she said.

McNeill also said that after Mangano’s former administrative assistant, Laura Munafo, joined the office, she had no idea what Munafo’s job responsibilities were.

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond A. Tierney, McNeill said she believed Munafo remained in contact with Mangano even after her move.

“I would overhear Ms. Munafo on the phone with the county executive,” she testified.

“She would call him Ed. She would be on the speakerphone and screaming quite loudly.”

Taste test

John Maguire, former manager of Nassau’s emergency operations center, had something good to say about the quality of food Singh served to emergency workers after superstorm Sandy.

“It was all good food,” he testified Tuesday, his second day on the stand as a prosecution witness. “Nobody complained about the food.”

“Everybody loved the food,” he continued.

Maguire also said that at one point he did notice Singh serving different food to officials gathered in OEM director Craig Craft’s office.

Singh himself, Maguire testified, offered food to him.

“But I declined,” the former Freeport fire chief testified.


Keating objected after Maguire was asked whether there was link between Singh’s friendship with Mangano and an emergency contract Singh received to feed emergency workers at the county emergency services center after superstorm Sandy.

So Tierney asked a few more questions before coming back to the issue.

“Did Harendra Singh’s friendship with Edward Mangano have anything to do with the awarding of the contract?”

Maguire paused.

And then he answered, “Yes.”

Name game

Why in the world did the name of Angie Carpenter, supervisor of the Town of Islip in Suffolk County, come up at the trial?

Her name was mentioned several times during Maguire’s testimony and cross-examination Tuesday — and even turned up in some FBI interview notes that Kevin Keating, Mangano’s attorney, shared with Maguire.

But it was all a mistake.

The references to Carpenter actually were supposed to be references to Angie Cullen, a former Hempstead Town council member who died last year at the age of 89.

Cullen, Maguire testified, was a longtime friend and former head of the Freeport Republican Club — who had recommended him to Mangano for a Nassau job once he was elected county executive.

“I have known Angie Cullen all my life,” Maguire testified, “I went to school with her kids.” He said that on several occasions he also drove Cullen to community events.

Again, that’s Cullen — not Carpenter, who was appointed and then elected Islip’s supervisor in 2015.

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