Wednesday, June 19, 2024

‘Real Housewives’ star’s ex convicted in ‘mafia’ attack on new husband

The ex-husband of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Dina Cantin (formerly Manzo) was convicted Tuesday of orchestrating an attack almost nine years ago on the reality star’s new romantic partner.

Thomas Manzo, 59, was found guilty of conspiracy, falsifying and concealing documents for a federal investigation, and committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of New Jersey said in a statement.

Manzo hired John Perna, a “soldier” from the Lucchese crime family, to attack and injure Dina’s then-boyfriend (now-husband), Dave Cantin, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in a statement. Manzo gave Perna a free wedding reception at a venue he owned in exchange for the attack, then concealed and falsified documents related to a federal investigation into the assault, Sellinger said.

“The facts and circumstances in this case read like something from a bad TV crime drama, but the evidence and testimony presented in court prove it was reality,” James E. Dennehy, special agent in charge for FBI’s office in Newark, said in a statement. “We truly hope the victims in this investigation are able to move on with their lives and forget about Manzo and his criminal mafia bedfellows.”

Manzo’s attorneys, Marc Agnifilo and Zach Intrater, did not respond to requests for comment.

Dina and Thomas married in the mid-2000s, in a wedding shown on a VH1 reality show. They remained together for much of Dina’s run on “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” where she was a main cast member for the first two seasons, in 2009 and 2010, and returned in Seasons 4 and 6.

Dina was one of the early stars of “RHONJ,” appearing with her sister, Caroline Manzo (who married Thomas’s brother), her rescue puppy and her cat. Outside of the show, Dina’s loyal fan base won her an HGTV show, “Dina’s Party,” where she planned parties in her clients’ homes, which lasted for two seasons and inspired a book.

Dina announced her breakup on Twitter in early 2013. “My secret…I have been separated since October, my heart hurts but Tommy & I will always share a very special love,” she wrote. She returned for one more season of “Real Housewives,” in 2014, as a soon-to-be divorcée. “There was this whole dream, I couldn’t wait to have a baby with him,” she confides in the first episode of Season 6. “I feel, like, almost alone.”

It’s unclear exactly when Dina met Dave Cantin, but according to the attorney’s office, the two were dating as of July 18, 2015, when her new beau was followed to a New Jersey strip mall by her ex, Thomas, and his mafia-linked associate, Perna.

Perna, with help from a member of his crew, used a “slapjack” weapon to attack Dave in the parking lot, authorities said.

One month later, Manzo allegedly rewarded Perna with a lavish wedding ceremony — reportedly at the Brownstone, a high-end catering hall and wedding venue owned by Manzo. The reception included more than 330 guests, including members of the crime family, according to the attorney’s office.

Manzo was arrested in connection with the assault in 2020 and pleaded not guilty. Perna, the attacker and a “made” member within the crime family, according to indictment, pleaded guilty in December of that year to the assault and was sentenced six months later to 30 months in prison.

Manzo now faces a maximum sentence of more than 40 years in prison, as well as up to $500,000 in fines between the three counts. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 15.

He is also awaiting trial for a second attack on the Cantins, which he allegedly participated in two years after the mall beating.

Manzo was accused of acting as an accomplice in an invasion of Dina and Dave’s townhouse in Holmdel, N.J., in 2017, shortly before they married. When authorities responded to a 911 call, they found the couple, having broken away from zip-ties, according to NBC New York. They had reportedly been attacked with a baseball bat, and Dina told investigators that a suspect had stolen her engagement ring from her finger.

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