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Power on Trial: After blackout, a light moment in Mangano trial

Linda and Edward Mangano arrive at federal court

Linda and Edward Mangano arrive at federal court in Central Islip on April 19. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Seven weeks

On Wednesday morning, the jury heard from an attorney from a loan brokerage firm, a limousine driver and a former Harendra Singh restaurant manager, as, seven weeks in, prosecutors continue to make their case.

Sometimes, the repetition can feel draggy.

But a blackout livened things up — for a few milliseconds until a generator kicked in and District Judge Joan M. Azrack called for the morning break in the trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.

And John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, provided another light touch after asking former restaurant manager Joseph Scalice whether he was contacted by federal officials after the trial started.

“I don’t know,” Scalice answered, “when did the trial start?”

The courtroom broke into laughter as Carman quipped, “I don’t think anyone knows.”

World view

Linda Mangano got a compliment about her work for the Singh Hospitality group — from a manager who also said he never saw her working at the restaurant he managed.

“She was responsive, and courteous and professional at all times with me,” said Joseph Scalise, who spent the last few months of the two years he worked for Singh managing the Water’s Edge in Long Island City.

He said he dealt with Mangano mostly by email, and that between 60 and 70 percent of the projects they worked on reflected his effort.

Scalise, who said he spent most of his time working in New York City, testified that he had no idea Linda Mangano was married to Edward Mangano.

“I’m sorry,” he testified, “This is not my world.”

Singh has testified that he gave Linda Mangano a $100,000-a-year no-show job, at the request of Edward Mangano.

Briefly

Brian Balsam, who once worked as a server for Singh’s Chow Down Diner, took the stand at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

He said he saw Edward Mangano eat breakfast at the diner “about three times.”

“Did you give him a bill?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz asked.

“No,” Balsam replied,

“So that would be a no?” she went on.

“Yes,” he replied.

Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, said he had no questions.

And, with that, Balsam was excused.

It was 4:02 p.m. — which gives him the record, thus far, for shortest time spent on the trial’s witness stand.

The longest time spent is Singh, who was questioned for 13 days,

Green light

Westchester-based NDH Capital Corp., in negotiating with former restaurateur Singh and Oyster Bay Town officials, modified agreements to make it crystal clear that the town would have to pay should Singh default on millions of dollars in loans.

One change called for Oyster Bay to pay off defaulted loans in one lump sum, within 60 days; another was that if Singh defaulted on one of his two NDH loans, the other immediately would go into default as well.

Which would leave Oyster Bay on the hook to satisfy two loans at one time.

“If they balk, let’s cut ties . . . move on,” Scott Haber, the company owner, wrote in a March 2011 email.

But Oyster Bay didn’t balk.

Instead, as Howard Kurtzberg, the vice president and general counsel, said repeatedly over two days of testimony, town officials stood with Singh.

“The town was giving us the green light to go ahead,” he testified.

At one point, NDH had considered making a third loan.

But that fell through, Kurtzberg testified, because the company couldn’t come to terms with Singh.

As for the two loans NDH did make, he said, both are in default.

He said he didn’t know by how much, but when pressed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine M. Mirabile, answered, “In the millions of dollars, yes.”

Later in the afternoon, Haber took the stand, and testified that if, he had to guess, the default amount was at least $15 million.

No meeting

At one point, NDH officials grew so concerned about Singh’s lack of progress on making promised improvements at The Woodlands in Woodbury and facilities on Town of Oyster Bay beaches, that Haber demanded a meeting with Venditto.

He didn’t get one, Kurtzberg testified under cross-examination by Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s defense attorney.

“We wanted . . . more business with the town of Oyster Bay,” Kurtzberg testified, “but we felt like things were going awry.”

NDH officials did get a meeting with a town officials — most of whom had been appointed by Venditto — during which Singh promised to better keep NDH appraised of his progress.

He and officials blamed superstorm Sandy for hindering Singh’s progress.

And, according to notes Kurtzberg took during one meeting, Steven Marx, Venditto’s assistant, promised to personally make himself available to make NDH officials feel more “comfortable” about what Singh was doing.

NDH made two loans — the last, and larger of which was based on the amount of improvements Singh made, and planned to make, to town facilities.

Kurtzberg, under questioning from Agnifilo, acknowledged that he himself never met with Venditto or talked to the supervisor — or any town board member — by phone.

Haber, in taking the stand later, said he didn’t meet with Venditto either.

But then, under questioning from Mirabile, he said it was rare for his firm to meet with CEO’s. Instead, Haber testified, they dealt with other company officials.

Negative publicity

As Kurtzberg did before him, Haber said the Oyster Bay loans had hurt his business with a once-reliable contact.

Not because Singh defaulted on the loans, Haber testified.

The reason, Haber testified, “is what is going on here now, at this trial, and the negative publicity.”

The head of NDH, in his testimony, made no mention of lawsuits that the town — under a new Republican administration — has filed contending that Oyster Bay’s obligation to pay off loans NDH sold to an insurance company is invalid.

Name game

Heather McNeill, a former OEM employee, testified Tuesday that she was called in to clean up a mess after VIPs, meeting in then-OEM director Craig Craft’s office, finished up a special meal Singh had prepared for them in the days after superstorm Sandy.

She said that earlier, she had noticed Craft, Mangano, Rob Walker, who was Mangano’s chief deputy, and Thomas Krumpter, then-deputy police commissioner, inside the room.

She also saw Victor Politi, who was then Nassau’s deputy county executive for public safety.

In 2013, Politi would become acting police commissioner after Police Commissioner Thomas Dale was forced to resign in the wake of a Nassau district attorney’s report finding that Dale had directed officers to arrest a witness in a politically charged election-year case.

Last week, Politi, a physician, was fired as chief executive and president of the health system that runs Nassau University Medical Center by the hospital board.

He had been appointed to run NuHealth in 2014, with the support of Mangano, who promoted Krumpter to replace him as police commissioner.

Ronald J. Rosenberg, Politi’s attorney, likened last week’s hospital board proceedings to a “star chamber,” calling Politi’s dismissal a “gross violation of due process.”

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