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Power on Trial: Singh tells how he got a bread contract

Harendra Singh leaves federal court in Central Islip

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

The dough also rises

Judging from the legion of schedule and calendar entries, texts and emails put into evidence by prosecutors Tuesday, Harendra Singh ate a lot of pancakes.

Beginning in 2011 and into 2012, Singh began meeting — at “Where: IHOP,” according to his calendar — in Hicksville with then acting Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato.

Singh said he sat across from Sposato — who “liked a pancake” — to lobby for a contract for his wife’s bakery to provide bread and rolls to the jail run by Sposato.

Tuesday was Singh’s third day of testimony in the corruption trial of former County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.

Early on, Singh testified, after conversations with Sposato and Edward Mangano, he was told he was in — once an existing contract with a bakery in Rockland County expired.

At one point, Singh said, Sposato gave him Rockland’s prices so Singh could undercut the bakery once the county solicited new sealed bids.

Still, to Singh’s disappointment, the Rockland bakery’s bid came in even lower than Singh anticipated.

So Singh lost.

Except, as it turns out, Singh didn’t.

He said his “friends” in Nassau government exploited a loophole that was supposed to give local businesses preference.

So Singh, although his bid was higher, ended up with the contract.

But Ruby Singh’s Italian-American bakery had to give up the contract.

Because, Singh testified, it didn’t have an infrastructure big enough to produce 100 loaves of bread for delivery to the jail up to five times a week.

Who’s the VIP?

Newsday, in a report about Singh’s contract to provide food at Nassau’s Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage after superstorm Sandy a few years ago, pointed out that meals served to first responders were different from the simpler, lighter fare served to Nassau residents who found themselves forced to stay in county shelters.

But in testimony Tuesday, Singh revealed that within OEM itself, Nassau officials he considered “VIPs” were served “higher quality food” than some 400 first responders who worked from the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the days after the storm.

First responders who came from local, state and federal agencies ate chicken, pasta and London broil “or some other form of beef,” Singh testified.

Meanwhile, Mangano and other Nassau officials, including, Singh said, former Police Commissioner Thomas Dale, former Deputy Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, Sposato and other county department heads, were served steak, shrimp and veal.

Singh — acknowledging that he was not a first responder — testified that he visited the emergency operations center frequently after the storm.

He wanted, he testified, “to see what was going on and also to speak to the county executive to see if he had a need for a food supply or something else.”

Within a day or two, Singh had a no-bid emergency contract — during which time he received just one complaint about the food.

Mangano, Singh said, had passed along a complaint about his company using frozen bagels. So, Singh said, he made sure the next batch was fresh.

No deficit of attention

The prosecution, with precision, questioned Singh about a wide variety of subjects on Tuesday — from a wooden floor he said he paid for in the Manganos’ bedroom, to a $7,300 watch he said he gave Mangano’s son for his 21st birthday, to how he secured county contracts for his companies to deliver bread and rolls, to meals at the county emergency center during superstorm Sandy.

They heard about Singh’s decision to secure an iPhone for Sposato (which Singh said he got for free). And about vacations Singh’s family took with the Manganos and their children — with Singh assuming most of the cost.

At each point, the prosecution introduced emails or texts or travel agency and other documents to underline Singh’s testimony. Then there were photographs entered into evidence of the Manganos’ bedroom, and Mangano and Singh in the water while on one of their vacations together.

And the jury, through the morning and the afternoon, appeared to be paying rapt attention at almost every step of the way.

At one point, the faces of many jurors looked to Singh, and then to documents projected on the screen or to the prosecutor, in kind of a courtroom version of a tennis match.

Lazy days

At one point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine M. Mirabile, displayed a copy of an agreement with Oyster Bay and a lender signed by Venditto.

Except, Singh testified, the document really hadn’t been signed by Venditto — but instead by one of Singh’s employees.

The notary signature on the statement, he testified, was a forgery by one of his employees, too.

What happened? Mirabile asked.

Singh testified that former deputy town attorney Frederick Mei had an original copy of the agreement — but that it lacked language saying that Oyster Bay would guarantee a loan, which the lender was requiring.

Singh said Mei made the change, but told Singh that there was no need to take it back to town officials to be signed anew.

Singh said that Mei said Singh could have someone else do the signatures.

“He was lazy,” Singh said.

Name game

For all of his lobbying with Sposato, Singh had a heck of a time getting the acting sheriff’s name right.

There was Mike Esposito.

Sheriff Spossato.

Mike Espizato.

Mirabile, repeatedly, had to ask Singh to clarify who he meant.

And each time, Singh answered, “Sposato.”

The ponies didn’t pay

Joseph Cairo, who is slated to take over leadership of the Nassau Republican Party once longtime chairman Joseph Mondello departs to assume a U.S. ambassadorship, also came up in Singh’s testimony Thursday.

Singh said he talked to Cairo as part of a lobbying effort to provide food at Nassau’s OTB in Hempstead Town.

He got a contract, but kept it for only three or four months, Singh testified. “We were losing money,” he said.

The concession was making about $200 or $300 a day — which, Singh said, “was not enough to cover the cost of the food.”

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