Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
Crime and Courts

‘Real Housewives of New Jersey' Star's Ex Pleads Not Guilty to Assault

Prosecutors allege Thomas Manzo asked a mobster to assault Dina Manzo's boyfriend in exchange for discounts on a wedding reception

What to Know

  • The ex-husband of a “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast member and a reputed mobster have pleaded not guilty to charges that they conspired to assault the woman’s current husband.
  • Thomas Manzo, 55, of Franklin Lakes, and John Perna, 43, of Cedar Grove, entered their pleas Wednesday during an arraignment hearing conducted via videoconferencing. Federal prosecutors say Manzo hired Perna to commit the attack in exchange for a lavish wedding reception at a restaurant where Manzo is an owner.
  • Manzo is the ex-husband of Dina Manzo, while Perna was identified as a soldier in the Lucchese crime family, according to prosecutors.

The ex-husband of a “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast member and a reputed mobster have pleaded not guilty to charges that they conspired to assault the woman’s current husband.

Thomas Manzo, 55, of Franklin Lakes, and John Perna, 43, of Cedar Grove, entered their pleas Wednesday during an arraignment hearing conducted via videoconferencing. Federal prosecutors say Manzo hired Perna to commit the attack in exchange for a lavish wedding reception at a restaurant where Manzo is an owner.

Both men are charged with conspiracy and committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity. Manzo is the ex-husband of Dina Manzo, while Perna was identified as a soldier in the Lucchese crime family, according to prosecutors.

Perna was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud related to the submission of a false car insurance claim, while Thomas Manzo was charged with falsifying and concealing records related to the federal investigation of the violent crime.

Thomas Manzo hired Perna in the spring of 2015 to assault his ex-wife’s then-boyfriend in exchange for a deeply-discounted wedding reception at a Paterson restaurant where Thomas Manzo is an owner, prosecutors said. The alleged assault occurred in July 2015.

The following month, Perna held a “lavish” wedding reception at the restaurant for a fraction of the price, prosecutors said. More than 330 people attended, including many members of the Lucchese Crime Family, authorities said.

The 2015 assault that spawned Tuesday's charges was separate from a 2017 home invasion Dina Manzo and her husband suffered.

James Mainello faces 10 charges related to that May 2017 attack at the Holmdel couple’s townhouse, in which the robbers allegedly got away with $500 and Manzo’s engagement ring worth $60,000.

Mainello is allegedly one of the two masked intruders who attacked and robbed Manzo and her then-fiancé Cantin in a brutal home invasion, saying "That's what you get for f---ing with a guy from Paterson" during the attack, according to an affidavit. 

Cantin told investigators he and Manzo had just gotten home on May 13, 2017 when one of the suspects charged at him with a baseball bat and attacked him, according to an affidavit provided by prosecutors.

Manzo told investigators one of the suspects pushed her against a wall, covered her mouth, threw her to the floor and kicked her before taking her engagement ring off her finger.

Cantin at one point allegedly tried to shield Manzo's body from being kicked as both were on the floor.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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