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Harendra Singh admits bribing Mangano, Venditto

LI restaurateur attempted to bribe an unnamed New York City elected official, court papers say

Harendra Singh is led out of the FBI

Harendra Singh is led out of the FBI office in Melville on Sept. 9, 2015. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Harendra Singh, the restaurateur linked to corruption probes of elected officials in New York City and Long Island, secretly pleaded guilty in October 2016 to bribing former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and trying to bribe an unnamed New York City official, newly unsealed court records show.

Singh, 59, of Syosset, pleaded guilty to eight counts and agreed to cooperate against the officials, according to court documents and a transcript of the plea.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong and illegal and I’m profoundly sorry for that,” Singh said during his plea, according to the transcript. He described showering the Mangano family with gifts, free meals, favors and a job for Mangano’s wife for which “no work product was expected.”

The documents show that Singh also pleaded guilty to federal charges in a bribery attempt involving an unnamed New York City official whose dealings with Singh are consistent with those of Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio was investigated by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Last March, prosecutors said they would not prosecute de Blasio after examining his fundraising practices.

In the charging document, federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York said Singh paid bribes and kickbacks to Nassau and Oyster Bay officials. Town officials, in return, indirectly guaranteed loans to Singh’s companies, papers said. Both the town and the county awarded contracts to him in return for bribes, the document said.

Singh pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud regarding Nassau and Oyster Bay, a count of federal program bribery regarding those governments, two counts of honest services wire fraud for those governments, conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services fraud regarding New York City, honest services fraud regarding the city, and obstructing and impeding the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws, or filing false tax returns.

In a separate action, papers were also unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip revealing that former Oyster Bay Deputy Town Attorney Frederick Mei secretly pleaded guilty in September 2015 to a charge of honest services fraud in a scheme in which he received $50,000 in checks made out to cash, and payments on a $36,000 BMW lease to aid an unnamed town concessionaire obtain millions in indirect loan guarantees from the town. The circumstances of the charges match those to which Singh has pleaded guilty.

The government unsealed Singh’s plea and related documents Wednesday as part of discovery disclosed to Edward Mangano, his wife and Venditto, who are facing their own federal corruption charges.

Edward Mangano has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion. His wife, Linda Mangano, has been charged with making false statements, conspiracy, extortion and obstruction of justice. Venditto is facing charges of conspiracy, bribery, securities fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. All have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go on trial in March.

Venditto was accused in a superseding indictment in November of 21 charges involving securities fraud in the town’s public offering of more than $1 billion in securities between 2010 and 2016. The Manganos were not accused in the securities fraud.

Edward Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, said in a statement, “The release of Singh’s plea confirms what we all knew — a man who faces decades in prison for his own vast and hidden criminality struck a cooperation deal, which stunningly included his release on bail, in a desperate effort to save himself. Harendra Singh has already demonstrated that he is incapable of telling the truth and would do anything that serves his interests.”

Venditto’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, said in a statement: “When Singh is cross-examined on the hundreds of emails he wrote and received, the world will see that Singh indeed had a connection in Oyster Bay but that it wasn’t John Venditto. My advice to everyone is to pay close attention to the trial starting in March.”

Singh’s attorney did not return calls for comment.

Eastern District federal prosecutors Catherine Mirabile, Lara Treinis Gatz and Raymond Tierney declined to comment, according to district spokesman John Marzulli.

In a transcript of his plea before U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein in Central Islip, Singh admitted bribing Mangano and Venditto between January 2010 and February 2015. He described funneling cash, gifts, meals and favors to them in return for contracts and favors from the governments they ran.

“My intention in providing these things of value to Mangano, Venditto and other officials was to influence their behavior and obtain benefits for myself, my restaurants and my companies,” he said, according to the transcript.

Among his bribes were:

  • $50,000 cash to an Oyster Bay official to help Singh pay loans guaranteed by the town.
  • “I also purchased a series of gifts for County Executive Edward Mangano, including a massage chair, an office chair,” Singh said. “I paid for wood flooring to be installed in the master bedroom of the Manganos’ home. I paid for a watch for one of Mangano’s sons that was worth approximately $7,000. And I paid for trips for Ed Mangano and the Mangano family. I also provided a no-show job to Linda Mangano from 2010 through 2014. During this time I paid Linda Mangano approximately $450,000. During the time I was paying Linda Mangano, she was not required to show up for work and no work product was expected from her. I hired Linda at the request of Ed Mangano and my purpose in hiring her was to influence Ed. Throughout the time of this conspiracy, I also allowed the Mangano family to eat and drink for free at my restaurants.”
  • For Venditto, there were free meals and significantly discounted rates for events at Singh’s facilities, and free limo service.

The city official who Singh pleaded to bribing is identified in the proceedings only as Official #2. The mayor is not identified by name in the superseding information Singh pleaded to, or in the official transcript of Singh’s plea obtained by Newsday.

But his interaction with Singh coincides with the details in the restaurateur’s plea. “Between in or around 2010 and in and around September 2015, I gave and raised tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to an elected New York City official in exchange for efforts by that official . . . and other City officials to obtain action from a New York City agency that would benefit myself and restaurants I owned.”

At the time, Singh was attempting to get the city to renew the lease for Water’s Edge, the Long Island City restaurant he owns, identified in the court papers only as Singh Entity #2.

Mirabile said in the transcript that the bribes and kickbacks got Singh “official action on an as-needed, as opportunities arise basis.”

Those actions included loan guarantees by the Town of Oyster Bay and agreements with the town and the county. In the city, Mirabile said the campaign contributions Singh raised and paid were in return for official action to favor Water’s Edge.

In the transcript, Singh agreed to cooperate in all the investigations of elected officials, and agreed to pay unspecified restitution. He also waived his right to appeal.

The plea deal did not include a promised sentence, but Mirabile said in court that the maximum sentences for the eight charges range from 3 years for the false tax return count to 20 years each for the three wire fraud counts. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

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