Caroline Manzo’s Father-in-Law, Tiny Manzo, Had Been the Biggest Mob Enforcer in New Jersey; He Was Murdered Mob-Style in 1983
On July 20, 2013, the New York Daily News published a story (see excerpt below) on Mike Russell, a New Jersey State Police officer who went undercover to infiltrate an organized crime syndicate – he brought down the family with 54 arrests and 48 convictions in 1986. Dreamworks bought the rights to Russell’s life story, which is slated for the big screen. The movie will be titled “Undercover Cop” and Jason Segal is attached. The book, “Undercover Cop: How I Brought Down the Real-Life Sopranos,” is out August 6.
In the story, Russell mentions Caroline Manzo’s father-in-law, Tiny Manzo, labeling him “the biggest mob enforcer in Jersey.” Tiny Manzo was executed mob-style in August 1983, a year before Caroline married Albert Manzo in July 1984 (photo above). According to Russel, “Fat Tiny Manzo made the mistake of constantly needling top soldier Joe Zarra, humiliating him,” and “Zarra just waited awhile for the heat to die down before clipping him as payback.”
In an interview on March 20, 2013, with the NY Daily News, Caroline addressed the rumors and mystery surrounding Tiny Manzo’s death:
“I will not give credence to the Mafia talk. He [Tiny Manzo] was a good man, a family man. His death remains a mystery,” Caroline told NY Daily News.
Tiny Manzo and Gambino family soldier Peter A. Campisi were suspected of skimming from a mob casino on Staten Island. According to the NY Daily News:
“A couple of weeks later, they found Tiny Manzo in the trunk of his car,” recalled Robert Buccino, a New Jersey organized crime expert.
The 350-pound mobster’s naked body – the arms and legs wrapped in plastic – was found bound and gagged in the trunk of his parked Lincoln-Continental outside a supermarket in Hillside, N.J. – there were four bullet wounds in his torso.
The killing was never solved.
Campisi, a made man and Tiny’s partner in the casino, suffered a similar fate, Buccino recalled.
The colorful Manzo, who ran for mayor of Paterson in 1974, also owned the Brownstone Restaurant – one of the main backdrops for action in “Housewives.”
His two wealthy sons, Albert and Tommy, still operate the venerable Paterson catering facility.
In a case that went all the way up to the state Supreme Court, the judges ruled in 1991 that Tiny Manzo’s widow (Anna Marie Manzo A/K/A Nina Manzo) could not collect on his $500,000 life insurance policy because the 350-pound man lied on his application about having diabetes. Manzo also falsely denied consulting a physician other than for a routine check-up in the five years prior to the application. In fact, during that time, Manzo had been hospitalized twice. The life insurance policy was taken out shortly before his murder in August 1983. [Source]
When RHONJ season 1 premiered, The Daily Beast interviewed Caroline about her family’s alleged mob connections. The following is an excerpt from the May 22, 2009 interview:
“In August of 1984 my husband and his family were victims of a horrific crime [Tiny’s murder]. 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.”
[Note from Fame: Tiny Manzo was murdered in August 1983; Caroline and Al were married a year LATER, in July 1984.]
Asked specifically whether she believes Tiny was caught up with the Mafia, Manzo responds: “As far as my father-in-law goes, in his lifetime there was never so much as an accusation of him being involved in organized crime.”
Well, that’s not entirely true. Robert Buccino of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, who in 46 years in law enforcement has charged more than 450 made members of La Cosa Nostra, says he knew Tiny Manzo. “He was well-known in the Paterson area,” he tells me, “and his association with organized crime was well-known.”
“As far as his family goes, his sons and daughters, there’s no allegations about them that we know of,” he adds. “But the father certainly was a player in the scene with organized crime.”
The gregarious Manzo was well-liked, says Buccino. His only legal entanglement, according to a New York Times article from 1974, seems to be a grand jury investigation over “possible collusion in the awarding of demolition contracts” during what would be an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Paterson. He ran as a law-and-order candidate who advocated public hangings.
Whatever Tiny was up to in the demolition business, it was the Brownstone House banquet hall, which he bought later in the 1970s, that would become his legacy. “It’s very nice,” says Buccino. “They do a lot of law-enforcement retirements.” Still run successfully by his sons Al (married to Caroline) and Tommy (married to Caroline’s sister, Dina), the baronial premises were even used as a location on The Sopranos.
Note from Fame: On February 1, 2013, Dina Manzo announced on Twitter that she and her husband of seven years, Tommy, were getting divorced.
To hear Caroline tell it, that’s as close as the two clans some to intersecting. She says she is enjoying being a freshly minted reality-TV star, but admits that some of the Internet chatter about her family has been difficult. “The blogs have been a challenge for me. I am the type of person that ‘needs to know’ what people are saying, she says. “However, I have stopped reading them for the most part, if for no other reason than the fact of the blogs having the ability to literally consume your life if you let them.”
During the RHONJ reunion show for season 1, which premiered in June 2009, Tiny Manzo’s name was brought up. Caroline and Dina said they were unhappy that the press was suggesting Albert Tiny Manzo was murdered in a “mob-style hit.” As reported by LALATE on June 24, 2009:
Caroline says “it makes me feel horrible that it was even brought up,” and reveals tonight that her father-in-law’s body was discovered on her birthday and that her husband bought her a ring to help make her forget the tragedy.
“And I looked at him dead in the eye and I said I love you, and I love your father, and I am proud to be his daughter-in-law.”
Danielle Staub reportedly adds:
“Was it my father-in-law that was killed and shoved into a trunk? I’m dangerous? I knew about this through the whole show. I didn’t bring it up once. I’m classy.”
The following is an excerpt from the NY Daily News story about Russell’s book.
By Sherryl Connelly, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
July 20, 2013, 10:55 PM
Mike Russell has quite a story to tell in “Undercover Cop: How I Brought Down the Real-Life Sopranos.” The former New Jersey state trooper unleashed hell on the mob in the form of 200 cops who took down 45 wiseguys on Sept. 26, 1986.
They all pleaded guilty.
Along the way he took a bullet to the head, passed on info about a plan to whack Rudy Giuliani, and had to strip down to his underwear in front of a gang of riled mobsters.
It wasn’t all easy going. This was the mob, after all.
On what he thought was a routine loan-sharking collection call to a bar on Route 1 in Hudson County, he stepped away to use the men’s room. He came back to find the bar owner sprawled face-up on the floor in a pool of blood.
Sal Cetrulo, the made man Russell made the call with, said some guy had run in and shot the guy in the head. “Prick ran down the block. F—— neighborhood’s going to s—,” he complained.
Nobody higher up bought that story, and for a while it looked like Russell was going to take the heat for the kill. Nobody liked to see a source of income murdered.
Russell accompanied Cetrulo to break down a casino that top soldier Joe Zarra was improperly running in Luchese territory in the heart of Paterson. They were gathering the liquor bottles when a black Lincoln pulled out front, and Albert “Tiny” Manzo, “the biggest enforcer in Jersey,” stepped out. Manzo, the father-in-law of one of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” Caroline Manzo, weighed 400 pounds. Meanwhile, another mobster strode toward the bar with a Browning automatic rifle in hand. Inside the casino, the guys hit the floor while the machine gun repeatedly strafed the building.
The fallout led to a meeting between the two families attended by Gigante’s right hand man, Bobby Manna. Fat Tiny Manzo made the mistake of constantly needling Zarra, humiliating him.
About six months later, Manzo was found dead, stuffed into the trunk of his car. His already large body had expanded with gas and it took the medical examiner two days to extract it.
Russell speculates that Zarra had just waited awhile for the heat to die down before clipping him as payback.
‘Since John Gotti’s [pictured] ascension to Gambino boss, I was seeing more and more new faces, a new breed of wiseguys who were smarter, more ruthless, bigger earners and schooled in the ways of keeping more of the money they were supposed to turn over to the mob,’ Mike Russell writes in his new book.
One day Cetrulo came out of a meeting with Manna visibly shaking.
“He wants to whack Rudy Giuliani. Can you f—–g believe it? You know what kind of heat that will bring down? What it’ll do to business? Whack the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District? F—–g insane.”
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