Singh describes give-take relationship with Mangano

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CENTRAL ISLIP -

Restauranteur Harendra Singh, the prosecution's star witness, took the stand Thursday in the federal corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.

Singh began by outlining his beginnings as an immigrant from India and his work in the restaurant industry. He told the courtroom that while he was operating a restaurant in Bethpage, he learned that he would have to work with elected officials in the Town of Oyster Bay and provide donations to the local Republicans in the town if he wanted to succeed in business.

MORE: Prosecutor: Mangano, Venditto ‘earned their keep’ for bribes, kickbacks
MORE: Newsday's Joye Brown on Singh's testimony
MORE: All eyes turn to Harendra Singh as corruption trial nears
MORE: Jury seated as Mangano, Venditto corruption trial gets underway

He later testified about his relationship with Mangano, which he said began when the future county executive was up-and-coming in the mid-1990s. He said he provided benefits and favors for Mangano when he was elected county executive in 2009.

Singh described the $2,500 office chair he said he purchased at Mangano’s request in late 2009.  Singh said Mangano asked for it to help his ailing back. Singh testified that was just one example of the arrangement the two men had. He said that he would provide for Mangano when he asked for discounted office space, comped or discounted meals and other gifts. Singh said he saw it as an investment in his businesses. 

"He was my friend and the newly-elected county executive. I knew I might need him for things," said Singh.

Singh said he wanted to make sure he had access to the county executive in case his restaurant empire ran into any trouble. He said he already had that access in Oyster Bay, where he was a prolific fundraiser for the Republicans who ran the town. He was also the operator of two town concession contracts – a catering hall called The Woodlands at the town golf course and restaurants at Tobay Beach.

Singh said that during the 2008 financial crisis, he forged documents to commit fraud against the banks and the IRS. He said he needed millions of dollars in loans to keep his businesses afloat, and hoped the town could help.

Singh said the banks told him they would give him $20 million in loans if he could get the Town of Oyster Bay to guarantee them. Singh said he leaned on Mangano, who then called Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, to see if the town could guarantee his businesses loans. Singh said without them, his restaurant empire was in peril.

"I wanted to make sure the loan happened. This was a lifeline for my businesses," said Singh.

His testimony will continue on Monday.

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