It’s a plot twist worthy of a whole new season. The ex-husband of Real Housewives of New Jersey star Dina Manzo has been accused of hiring a mobster to assault Dina’s boyfriend in exchange for a heavily discounted wedding reception.
Thomas “Tommy” Manzo, 55, and John Perna, 43, both from north New Jersey, were arrested on Tuesday on a host of charges including committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity and fraud offenses.
Manzo and his brother, Albert, co-own Brownstone Restaurant, an events venue in Paterson, New Jersey, that was often featured in Real Housewives episodes as the Manzo family’s second home.
Prosecutors allege that Manzo was upset in 2015 that Dina had moved on with a new boyfriend and wanted the boyfriend to be assaulted and left with a permanent facial scar. While the boyfriend is not named in the indictment, Dina publicly started dating Dave Cantin in 2015 and the pair married in 2017.
In early 2015, Manzo hired Perna, identified in the indictment as a “made man” in the Lucchese crime family, to assault Cantin, knowing that he was a mobster, according to prosecutors.
Manzo passed on the boyfriend’s home address, business address, and vehicle number to Perna who, along with one of his crew members, tracked Cantin down on July 18, 2015, and followed him to a strip mall in Passaic County. The pair allegedly attacked the boyfriend in a parking lot with Perna using a slap jack to assault him.
In exchange for committing the assault, Perna held a lavish wedding reception at Brownstone Restaurant for a fraction of the price, which was paid by another Lucchese associate and close friend of Manzo’s, the indictment says.
The wedding, held in August 2015, was attended by at least 330 people, and included many members of the Lucchese Mafia.
When a federal grand jury subpoenaed Brownstone Restaurant for documents related to the wedding, Manzo allegedly submitted false paperwork. The FBI then raided the restaurant late last year and seized invoices and other information that Manzo never turned over. He was charged with falsifying and concealing records related to the federal investigation.
Manzo and Perna made their initial appearance in the District Court for the District of New Jersey on Tuesday. Manzo’s attorney, Michael Critchley, told NJ.com on Tuesday that his client was innocent of all the charges.
“The allegations more resemble a fictional plot of a reality TV show and will be proven to be absolutely and totally false as it relates to Thomas Manzo,” he said.
Perna was released from prison on parole last year after serving time for racketeering related to a multi-billion-dollar gambling enterprise he ran with other members of the Lucchese family, including his father, Ralph, and his brother, Joseph.
Just before he went to prison in 2016, he falsely reported that his Mercedes Benz was stolen and destroyed, prosecutors said in Tuesday’s indictment. He allegedly staged the vehicle theft and arson with other Lucchese members then filed an insurance claim. Along with racketeering and assault charges, he was also charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
Dina left the Real Housewives franchise in 2015 when she moved to California and launched a party-planning show, Dina’s Party that was canceled after two seasons. She separated from Manzo in 2012, six years after they married.
The 2015 attack wasn’t the only time she and Cantin have been targeted by the Mafia. In 2017, they were beaten up by a man with mob ties during a violent home invasion in New Jersey. Cantin said he was beaten with a baseball bat, which broke his nose, while another assailant pushed Dina to the floor and kicked her.
James “Jimmy Balls” Mainello, 51, was later charged with carrying out the attack. He reportedly told the newly engaged couple, “This is what happens when you fuck with people from Paterson.”
On the first season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, it was revealed that Manzo’s father, Albert “Tiny” Manzo, was murdered. While Dina insisted it wasn’t Mafia-related, New York Daily News reported that Tiny was executed mob-style before his body was found in the trunk of a car outside a New Jersey supermarket in 1983.
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