NEWARK, N.J. – The ex-husband of one of the stars of the Bravo television show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and an organized crime soldier were arrested today on charges of planning and carrying out an assault of the Bravo star’s current husband in exchange for a lavish wedding reception, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Thomas Manzo, 55, of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, and John Perna, 43, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, are each charged by indictment with committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity and conspiracy to commit a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity. The indictment also charges Perna – identified in the indictment as a soldier in the Lucchese Crime Family – with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud related to the submission of a false car insurance claim, and Manzo with falsifying and concealing records related to the federal investigation of the violent crime. Both defendants will make their initial appearances today by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In the spring of 2015, Manzo, one of the owners of the Brownstone Restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey, allegedly hired Perna to assault his ex-wife’s then-boyfriend in exchange for a deeply discounted wedding reception for Perna held at the upscale venue. Perna, who is a “made man” in the Lucchese Crime Family with his own crew, worked with his associates to plan and carry out the assault, which took place in July of 2015. In exchange for committing the assault, Perna held a lavish wedding reception at Manzo’s restaurant for a fraction of the price, which was paid by another Lucchese associate and close friend of Manzo’s. The wedding and reception, held in August 2015, were attended by approximately 330 people, and included many members of the Lucchese Crime Family.
Separately, prior to the date that Perna was scheduled to begin serving a state prison sentence in January 2016, he falsely reported that his Mercedes Benz was stolen and destroyed. Perna filed an insurance claim for the destruction of the Mercedes Benz in order for the balance due on the Mercedes Benz. However, Perna had staged the vehicle theft and arson with other members of the Lucchese Crime Family.
The charge against Manzo for allegedly falsifying and concealing records related to the federal investigation of the July 2015 assault relates to federal grand jury subpoenas that were sent to the Brownstone Restaurant seeking documents related to the August 2015 Perna wedding reception. Manzo failed to turn over relevant documents in response to those subpoenas and deliberately submitted a false document regarding the reception to the government, along with a false certification. In November 2019, agents with the FBI executed a search warrant at the Brownstone Restaurant and seized invoices for the August 2015 Perna wedding reception and other relevant documents that were not previously turned over.
The violent crime in aid of racketeering activity count against both defendants carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit the violent crime in aid of racketeering activity count against both defendants carries a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud count against Perna carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years of in prison and a $250,000 fine. The falsifying and concealing records related to a federal investigation count against Manzo carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Joe Denahan in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges and arrest.
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel V. Grady O’Malley and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendall Randolph of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.