Harendra Singh may not have been a politician, but the disgraced restaurateur had enough free meals, free limo rides and free event services for officials to hold plenty of sway in local government, according to former Deputy Town Supervisor of Oyster Bay Leonard Genova.
“He had the keys to not just the town, but maybe the county,” Genova said, according to Newsday. “I would say he had the keys to Long Island.”
Genova himself confessed to receiving free meals and limousine trips from Singh, who showered officials with gifts in exchange for contracts and loan guarantees.
But Genova was given immunity in exchange for testifying in the case of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Mangano’s wife, Linda, and former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto at federal court in Central Islip.
Mangano and Venditto are charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest services wire fraud. Mangano was additionally charged with extortion and Venditto with securities fraud.
Linda Mangano is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements to the FBI and obstruction of justice. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Testimony last week focused on Nassau County awarding Singh a contract to provide meals for emergency workers in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Officials in the county government said that they gave Singh a no-bid contract using FEMA funds, despite objections.
Last Thursday, Butch Yamali of the Dover Group testified that he had expected to get that contract, according to Newsday, because the group had won a 10-year contract in 2009 to exclusively provide food at county properties and because it was on the list of approved vendors and Singh was not.
According Newsday, defense attorneys pushed back against Yamali, saying that the county didn’t have to check in with approved vendors before going with Singh because a state of emergency had been declared. They also asserted that Singh’s distribution center was closer to the emergency operations than the Dover Group’s, which Yamali denied.
Earlier in the trial, Singh testified that he had used his close friendship with Mangano — along with gifts, free meals and a $450,000 no-show job for Mangano’s wife, Linda — to secure contracts.
The focus turned back to Oyster Bay this week. Singh previously testified that he was not as close to Venditto as he was to the Manganos, but Genova said that Singh was still a priority for Oyster Bay. He said that the town granted every one of Singh’s requests regarding his concession agreements between 2000 and 2010, according to Newsday.
Singh used his connections with Oyster Bay to secure millions in loan guarantees from the town.
But Genova said Singh’s powers expanded beyond a few Nassau and Oyster Bay officials, according to Newsday. He said that he saw Singh on several occasions interacting with judges and police officers in Nassau and other officials from neighboring Suffolk County, although he did not give specific names.