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 to the left). According to Russell, “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.
Real life ‘Sopranos’ exposed in Mike Russell’s new book ‘Undercover Cop’ (Excerpt)
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.”
Manzos Dual Link to the Genovese Crime Family
Tiny Manzo worked for Louis “Streaky” Gatto, who ran a multimillion dollar gambling empire in New Jersey for the Genovese family. Al and Caroline’s son-in-law, Vito Scalia, is related to the Genovese crime family.
UPDATE 1/26/2016: On January 26, 2016, the body of Matthew Genovese, a relative of Caroline Manzo’s son-in-law, Vito Scalia, was found in the Hudson River.
“When he didn’t show up to work on Monday, he worked on Wall Street, at that time family members were called, and they came to us to report him missing,” said Chief Ken Ferrante with the Hoboken Police Department. Genovese was last seen by three friends Saturday leaving McSwiggan’s Pub of Hoboken at First and Bloomfield Avenue between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.
On January 25th, Caroline requested the help of her social media followers in searching for Genovese:
Caroline Manzo @CarolineManzo Jan 25
Any help would be appreciated , please retweet. This is a relative of my son-in-law @VitoScalia3 https://twitter.com/dgenovese84/status/691772958780592129 …
The search commenced with police and friends canvassing the city. “We had at one point up to 20 family members and friends here (at headquarters). That’s why I was suggesting ‘it’s better for all of you to be at a more private location,’ and we exchanged cell phone numbers,” Ferrante said. “We convinced most of the family to leave at about 10 p.m. but his brother and father and uncle stayed… We strongly advised ‘try to get some rest, try to be together as a family.'” The three men were at headquarters until after 1 a.m., and then police arranged for them to come back in after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Ferrante said. About 20 detectives and more uniformed personnel would continue to search through the night, Ferrante said, and he was concerned about the pain the family would experience overhearing radio transmissions as the detectives searched.
The next day Genovese’s body was been found in the Hudson River, Hoboken police said. Upon leaving the bar, Genovese told three friends that he was going to walk to his Garden Street apartment but instead walked east, toward the river, for unknown reasons, authorities said. A worker at the bar said Genovese did not appear to be intoxicated when he left. His home was only 10 blocks away.
At one point during the search, a police officer found Genovese’s wallet in the snow, with his cash, credit cards and ID along Pier A by the waterfront. By Tuesday afternoon, New York City police divers would help find his body in the Hudson. The body was found wearing the same clothes Genovese was last seen wearing, police said. Police said there were no visual signs of trauma or criminality. Authorities said there is no evidence of foul play. Without an eyewitness, they may never know how he ended up in the water.
The family was told about the sad news soon after Genovese was found by NYPD divers, Ferrante said. The mayor also met with the family Tuesday, city spokesman Juan Melli said.
Caroline posted the news of his death on social media:
Caroline Manzo @CarolineManzo Jan 26
Thank you so much for sharing and prayers. Unfortunately this story didn’t end as we had hoped. Mathews body was found earlier today. May God rest his soul and give his family the strength they need to get through this tragedy.
Grand-Beth said on October 5, 2013 at 4:45 PM at FameWhorgas
This may be a little off topic but speaks on Caroline’s moral righteousness and people not worthy to be in her or her families circle of friends………I just finished reading the book “Undercover cop, how I brought down the real-life Sopranos” by Mike Russell. It was a good read about mafia take down on so many with the help of undercover work.
Caroline is a big ass fibber when she said her FIL Tiny Manzo was a good man and never a bit of proof he had mafia ties. In chapter 13 starting on page 235 it talks about him and how he was considered the biggest mob enforcer in N.J. He worked under Louis Gatto. Manzo was an enforcer who helped machine gun a mobster’s car when they tried to move in on Gatto’s territory. Russell said they had a sit-down three days after the incident and said Tiny needled Joe Zarra incessantly during this meeting and Zarra had to “take it and keep his mouth shut because he knew he was in the wrong for infringing on Gatta’s turf”. Russell said he was surprised when Manzo’s body turned up about 6 months after this meeting and he didn’t wait longer to keep the heat off him BUT, like he said, “these old mobsters never forget a slight”. According to this book and undercover guy, it took the medical examiner two days to extricate Tiny from the trunk because he weighed about 400 pounds and in the summer heat the gases expanded his body so bad. They all knew Zarra did it but did not have proof.
After reading this book I would not want my family around the Manzos…… And knowing what I do now and seeing Caroline and the way she acts is almost mafia attitude to me. Her family values and moral ethics are almost laughable to anyone who has seen her and her “thick as thieves” family and read the background on her FIL. The biggest mob enforcer in N.J. and top soldier for a big mob boss like Louis Gatto.
So Tiny Manzo worked for Louis “Streaky” Gatto, who ran a multimillion dollar gambling empire in New Jersey for the Genovese family, which, according to the Associated Press in 1991, “for decades has been recognized as New Jersey’s most powerful mob group.” When Louis went to prison in 1991, his son Joseph took over (Louis passed away in prison in 2002; Joseph died in 2010). The Genovese family crews in Jersey run some of the largest loan-sharking and bookmaking operations in the New York – New Jersey areas.
From Reading Eagle, June 1991:
For decades the Genovese crime family has gotten its way in the field of organized crime… but it took a hit when Louis “Streaky” Gatto was convicted of murder, extortion, racketeering and running a gambling empire.
Prosecutors said the sports gambling and numbers rackets took in $420 million a year in bets, and the group kept $43 million in profits, which is more than the No. 2 casino in Atlantic City.
From Mafia Today on April 19, 2010:
Genovese crime family capo Joseph “The Eagle” Gatto passed away due to undisclosed causes at the age of 65. Gatto was said to have inherited the New Jersey based Genovese family gambling action once run by his father Louis “Streaky” Gatto. His father was reported to have run a multimillion dollar gambling empire in Jersey for the Genovese family but was convicted in 1991 at which time his son took over his operations.
Streaky Gatto also held the rank of captain in the Genovese family and was said to be a favorite of the late Genovese family boss Vincent Gigante. Streaky Gatto passed away in prison in 2002 after his son Louis Gatto Jr. died in 2000 while also in federal prison. In 2003 a Jersey organized crime commission identified Joseph Gatto as a Genovese family captain and leader of one of the five major Genovese family crews operating in New Jersey.
The Genovese crime family has long been operating in Jersey and has been the dominate mafia family operating in Passaic, Hudson and Bergen counties.
Just last year Joseph Gatto got a pass when a grand jury declined to indict him in the “Operation Jersey Boyz” case run by the state police. In 2004 Gatto and 43 alleged mobsters were all arrested as part of the gambling and racketeering case.
Gatto and other mobsters allegedly ran a vast offshore gambling operation, which was run by his Genovese Jersey crew that took in millions of dollars that were shared by members of the Genovese, Gambino, Bonanno and Lucchese mafia families.
Gatto and his crew were accused of running a wire room located in Costa Rica known as Catalina Sports. The operation was reported to have had over 12,000 customers and was bringing in approximately $300,000 a week for the mafia.
It is not yet known who is set to replace the long-time Jersey capo, but the Genovese family will keep it business as usual as they morn the loss of one of their own.
Louis “Streaky” Gatto was sentenced to 65 years in prison June 1991 for racketeering and murder conspiracy. At the time, Gatto, a captain in the North Jersey Genovese family, was said to be a favorite of imprisoned Genovese boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante. “Streaky” Gatto died in prison in 2002 after a battle with prostate cancer.
At a New Jersey Commission of Investigation hearing in 2003 on organized crime in the state, Joseph Gatto (Streaky’s son) was identified as a capo, or crew leader, of one of five main Genovese crews in New Jersey.
The Genovese family has long been the dominant crime family in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties, running the largest bookmaking and loan-sharking rings in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area.
On the Mafia Today website, they also have stories about Ronald and Louis Manzo (who are brothers) and South Philadelphia bookmaker Vincent Manzo. They’re probably related to Al.
Knowing Al’s mob ties gives new meaning to what Caroline uttered under her breath at Joe Giudice, “My husband will destroy you” (she said this after Juicy basically told her to shutup and leave his wife alone as she berated Teresa in Napa in September 2012). And it could explain why Andy said to Caroline at the reunion 5, “Sometimes you scare me.”
aaacccp said on 2013/10/05 at 9:01 PM at FameWhorgas
I just read this old comment(2010) and can’t stop thinking about.
“Danielle’s connections aren’t as “tight” because she’s not married or related to anyone – but Danny Provenzano is a made member of the Genovese crime family and has done 4 years for racketeering. He’s the real deal. His great uncle is suspected of being the person who killed Jimmy Hoffa. That is why Danny said he wouldn’t have to say anything, they’d know. And they know. The Manzo father in law was associated with the Gambinos, but once he stole from them, who knows how their loyalties lie. I REALLY wish someone with some mafia knowledge would blog about this, but chances are they would be dead if they knew things.”
kayswhims said on 2013/11/04 at 6:55 PM at FameWhorgas
Is Danielle Staub the key player in all of this?
1. Danielle is friend of Danny Provenzano, grandnephew of Anthony Provenzano also known as Tony Pro, Caporegime (or captain) in the Genovese crime family of New York City. Danny Provenzano became a made man, movie director, and a producer after building a successful printing company in New Jersey. He served a portion of a ten-year sentence for racketeering. Danny appeared in the second season of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New Jersey – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Provenzano
2. Kevin Maher, Danielle Staub’s ex, was a paid undercover FBI informer, now he is a private investigator. Their marriage sounds like they could have had couples night with Joe and Melissa Gorga.
3. Danielle made friends who became enemies, or so it is made to appear that way. Kim G, Jaq, Caroline, etc.
Caroline Manzo “I am small but I am scrappy and you don’t want to mess with me,” she said. “You believe what you want to believe. It’s sticks and stones. I will go head to head and toe to toe with anybody that would like to challenge me to say that my husband and his family are involved with organized crime. I am proud to be Caroline Manzo.”
4. Teresa is friends with Victoria Gotti
5. Joe Gorga connected? “Yea @melissagorga better tell @joegorga to stop send me messages that he’s connected. Don’t make me lol, you got nothing. Yeah, I got the messages, they think their mobsters! Lol… Am I suppose to be scared! Make the threats public tuff guy.” – Anthony Arater (@AArater), August 4, 2013, Twitter – https://famewhorgas.wordpress.com/category/anthony-arater-melissas-ex-boyfriend/
The RHONJ cast and friends are involved in things concerning bankruptcy, financial problems, construction work, flipping, real estate etc.
“The FBI said professionals working in the mortgage industry were involved in many of the cases, with organized crime playing a significant role. “There have been numerous instances in which various organized criminal groups were involved in mortgage fraud activity. Asian, Balkan, Armenian, La Cosa Nostra, Russian and Eurasian organized crime groups have been linked to various mortgage fraud schemes, such as short sale fraud and loan origination schemes,” the FBI said. Many of the perpetrators are using past experiences in banking and mortgage-related industries to engage in the schemes. Law enforcement data suggests fraud occurs most often in California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Texas, Georgia, Maryland and New Jersey. ”