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Guilty plea entered in HUD investigation

A longtime friend of former Housing Secretary Samuel Pierce entered the first guilty plea Thursday in the probe of influence peddling in the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Samuel Pittman Singletary of Pleasantville, N.Y., pleaded guilty to a felony tax-evasion charge before U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Harris, admitting that he gave the Internal Revenue service a false 1985 return.

The return said he and his wife earned $37,762 that year, when he knew they had earned "substantially in excess of that sum," Singletary admitted. The court documents did not say how much they were alleged to have earned that year.

The plea agreement with independent counsel Arlin Adams says Singletary will cooperate fully with Adams in his investigation of influence peddling at the HUD during the Reagan administration.

In return, Adams agreed to drop tax evasion counts covering 1986 and 1987 and to ask that Singletary not be jailed or fined. Felony tax evasion can carry a sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Singletary is to be sentenced Aug. 20.

Since Adams began his probe in March 1990, his office has indicted three people: Singletary, real estate investor Leonard E. Briscoe of Fort Worth, Texas, and Lance H. Wilson, Pierce's former executive assistant.

Adams' office declined to say whether the prosecutor expected Singletary's cooperation to bring verdicts in those cases or possibly other indictments.

Singletary managed Pierce's two campaigns for election as a Manhattan judge in 1959 and 1960.