News

Restaurateur Who Bribed New York Politicians Faces Sentencing

A Long Island restaurateur who was a key witness in a federal investigation into public corruption is set to be sentenced on Wednesday in federal court.

Harendra Singh, 64, pleaded guilty in 2016 to bribing a former Nassau County executive, Edward P. Mangano, who was once a powerful figure in local Republican politics. He testified in two trials against Mr. Mangano, who is now serving a 12-year sentence in federal prison.

The restaurateur also admitted to trying to bribe the former mayor of New York, the Democrat Bill de Blasio, in an attempt to get favorable treatment for a restaurant he ran on the waterfront in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. That inquiry did not result in charges against the former mayor.

But the matter remained a political liability for Mr. de Blasio for the remainder of his time in public office — and as he mounted a doomed bid to be the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee. The Manhattan district attorney’s office also investigated the fund-raising tactics of Mr. de Blasio, who always denied wrongdoing. While neither office brought charges, they both criticized his practices.

Mr. Singh’s testimony also exposed corruption on the other side of the political spectrum, in wealthy enclaves on the eastern end of Nassau County long dominated by Republicans. Mr. Singh testified extensively about how he learned to befriend local heavyweights in order to get ahead in business.

In a letter to Judge Joan M. Azrack of the Eastern District of New York this month, prosecutors detailed Mr. Singh’s “substantial assistance” in providing testimony, which included 17 days on the stand in the cases against his longtime friend Mr. Mangano, as well as his wife and co-defendant, Linda Mangano. (The first proceeding ended in a mistrial.) Ms. Mangano was sentenced to 15 months in prison and released to home confinement in January after serving about five months.

Mr. Singh had owned at least 10 restaurants, including beach concessions in Oyster Bay. Prosecutors accused him of numerous counts of fraud and other crimes related to bribing the officials with cash, vacations, pricey furniture, car payments, campaign contributions and a $100,000-a-year no-show job for Ms. Mangano. In exchange, he got the town to indirectly guarantee $20 million in loans for his businesses, prosecutors said.

He was also accused of evading taxes, including paying millions to workers off the books, and of lying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to procure nearly a million dollars in disaster-relief funds after Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. Singh also admitted to bribing a former town supervisor in Oyster Bay, John Venditto; a lawyer for the town, Frederick Mei; and other officials. Mr. Venditto, who died in 2020, was acquitted in that case, but pleaded guilty to corruption charges in a separate case in state court.

Mr. Mei, who is also scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, pleaded guilty to bribery charges and cooperated, testifying at one point that being investigated was a “rite of passage” in the area. During the Mangano trial, he testified about the meaning of “the Oyster Bay Way.”

“To me, it’s a phrase used to discuss the pay-to-play nature of the town,” he said, Newsday reported at the time.

While federal guidelines called for a sentence of 14 to 17 years for Mr. Singh, prosecutors argued that he deserved a lower sentence because of his extensive cooperation. In the letter this month, Catherine M. Mirabile, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District, called for Mr. Singh to pay over $22 million in restitution to the company that held the loans, the I.R.S., state agencies and FEMA.

Mr. Singh’s lawyer, Anthony M. La Pinta, asked the court to forego additional prison time altogether. Mr. Singh was jailed between December 2015 and the following August, and pleaded guilty less than three months later. In the years since, he spent countless hours with prosecutors, Mr. La Pinta wrote to the court in a letter last week, calling his cooperation “possibly without peer.” He spent some of that time under home confinement.

The letter, which included testimonials from family and friends, painted a portrait of a hard-working businessman who went from being forced as a child to labor on a farm to India to running a small business empire in New York. But Mr. Singh’s business pursuits, which he started in 1989 and at their peak employed 1,000 people, had been decimated by the case, Mr. La Pinta wrote.

“Should the court sentence Mr. Singh to a substantial custodial sentence after his vital and extraordinary cooperation, it would very likely result in a chilling effect for potential future cooperators,” Mr. La Pinta warned.

Related Articles

Back to top button