Thomas Manzo, ex-husband of former “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Dina Manzo, has been indicted for allegedly hiring John Perna, a member of the Lucchese crime family, to assault Manzo’s current husband.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the indictment Tuesday.
Thomas Manzo, 55, who lives in Franklin Lakes, allegedly asked Perna, 43, of Cedar Grove, to assault Dina’s boyfriend in July 2015 in exchange for a discounted price on Perna’s wedding at The Brownstone, a Paterson banquet hall that Manzo co-owns with his brother, Albert Manzo.
Perna and another Lucchese associate allegedly followed Dina’s then-boyfriend to a strip mall in Passaic County and allegedly attacked him, leaving a scar on the man’s face.
Authorities say Perna then had a “lavish” wedding attended by at least 330 people — ”including many members of the Lucchese crime family” — at The Brownstone for a deep discount in August 2015. Perna and Manzo are charged with committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity and conspiracy to commit a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity.
Who is Thomas Manzo? Who is Dina Manzo?
Thomas Manzo, known as Tommy Manzo on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” separated from Dina Manzo in 2012. The couple finalized their divorce in 2016.
In 2017, Dina Manzo married Dave Cantin (the couple can be seen in the Instagram photo below). She currently uses the name Dina Cantin.
Dina and Dave Cantin were victims of a home invasion in May of 2017. The couple, who recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary, told police that Dave was hit in the head with a baseball bat at their home in Holmdel and Dina was repeatedly punched as attackers stole jewelry and cash. James Mainello, 51, of Bayonne, was charged with robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, theft, criminal restraint and weapons possession.
Before she landed on “RHONJ” in 2009, Dina’s wedding to Tommy at the Brownstone was featured in a 2007 episode of another reality series, VH1′s “My Big Fat Fabulous Wedding” (you can witness some scenes from the show in the tender wedding slideshow below). Another show on her reality TV resume is “Dina’s Party,” which ran on HGTV starting in 2011 and showcased her event-planning skills.
Tommy Manzo became stepfather to Dina’s daughter, Lexi Ioannou, from a previous relationship, who was also featured on “RHONJ.”
Both Dina and Tommy appeared on “RHONJ” in its first season (at the time living in Franklin Lakes). The show was a family affair. Tommy’s brother, Albert Manzo, is married to Dina’s sister, Caroline Manzo (née Laurita), another former “RHONJ” cast member.
Caroline and Albert and their children Albie, Lauren and Christopher have all appeared on the reality show. Caroline and her family had their own spinoff series, “Manzo’d with Children,” which ran from 2014 to 2016 on Bravo.
Chris Laurita, Dina and Caroline’s brother, also appeared on the show alongside their sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita, a former main cast member.
Dina left “RHONJ” after the first two seasons of the show before returning briefly in 2014. She and Caroline have reportedly been estranged from one another following their run on the series.
Dina is friends with “RHONJ” mainstay Teresa Giudice (who recently appeared in a Super Bowl commercial with Caroline, despite their past feud), who is still a main cast member. Dina is godmother to Giudice’s daughter Audriana, 10.
The Manzo family, The Brownstone and questions about Mafia ties
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says that another Lucchese associate who is a friend of Thomas Manzo paid for John Perna’s Brownstone wedding.
Perna, a “made man” in the Lucchese family, according to authorities, was released from prison on parole in 2019 on a racketeering charge in connection with a multi-billion-dollar gambling enterprise involving his father, Ralph, and brother, Joseph.
During the first season of “RHONJ,” questions surrounded the Manzo family — along with comparisons to “The Sopranos” — because Thomas and Albert Manzo’s father, Albert “Tiny” Manzo, was found dead in the trunk of a car parked outside a Hillside supermarket in the 1980s.
Caroline Manzo always vehemently denied the family has any Mafia ties.
“In August of 1984 my husband and his family were victims of a horrific crime,” she told The Daily Beast in 2009. “To this day, 26 years later, the family does not know the whys or the hows of that event… the real crime here is the assumptions that are made against this family.”
Robert Buccino, former chief of detectives at the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, told the outlet that Albert “Tiny” Manzo, former owner of The Brownstone, was known to be associated with organized crime. Manzo ran for mayor of Paterson in 1974.
Manzo and Peter Campisi, who authorities said was a soldier in the Gambino crime family, were suspected of allegedly skimming from a Mafia-controlled casino on Staten Island.
“As far as his family goes, his sons and daughters, there’s no allegations about them that we know of,” Buccino said of Manzo at the time. “But the father certainly was a player in the scene with organized crime.”
According to a report from the New York Daily News, the 2013 book “Undercover Cop: How I Brought Down the Real-Life Sopranos,” by Mike Russell, a former East Orange police officer, went so far as to call Albert “Tiny” Manzo “the biggest enforcer in Jersey.” However, Russell’s book was criticized for errors and inconsistencies, including the claim that he was a state trooper.
Manzo, Russell alleged, had “made the mistake of constantly needling” a top soldier in the Genovese crime family who Russell said was “improperly running” a casino in Lucchese territory in Paterson. Six months later, Russell said, Manzo was found dead.