Who is John Perna? Lucchese crime family member pleads guilty to assaulting 'RHONJ' star Dina Manzo's husband

Prosecutors allege John Perna was enlisted by Thomas Manzo to assault his ex-wife Dina Manzo's current husband in exchange for discounts on a wedding reception

                            Who is John Perna? Lucchese crime family member pleads guilty to assaulting 'RHONJ' star Dina Manzo's husband
John Perna (New Jersey Office of the Attorney General)

John Perna, 43, admitted on Wednesday that he planned and carried out an assault on the husband of one of the former 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' stars, Dina Manzo, in 2015. Perna, a Cedar Grove resident and an organized crime soldier of the Lucchese crime family pleaded guilty to the crime via video conference in federal court, US Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. 

Perna made the confession before US Judge Kevin McNulty to Count One of the indictments pending against him, charging him with committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering activity. The indictment also charged Thomas Manzo of Franklin Lakes, the 55-year-old ex-husband of the Bravo celebrity, according to a press release issued by the US Attorney's Office in New Jersey.

Here's an account of the case according to court documents and Perna's statements in court. In the spring of 2015, Manzo, one of the owners of the Brownstone Restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey, and the ex-husband of Dina, hired Perna to assault his ex-wife’s new boyfriend (now husband) in exchange for a deeply discounted wedding reception to be held at Manzo’s upscale Passaic County venue. Perna, who is a “made man” in the Lucchese crime family, planned and carried out the assault on July 18, 2015, with the help of a member of his crew. Perna was armed with a “slapjack” during the assault. In exchange for committing the assault, Perna held a lavish wedding reception at Manzo’s restaurant, just one month later, for a fraction of the price he would otherwise have paid. The reception was attended by over 330 guests, many of whom were members of the Lucchese crime family.

Perna's involvement in the racketeering activity count carries a maximum potential penalty of at least 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing is scheduled for April 28, 2021. The investigation that led to Perna's guilty plea was headed by special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge, George M Crouch Jr in Newark.

The charges and allegations in the indictment against Manzo are considered mere accusations for now and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The charges against him include falsifying and concealing records related to the federal investigation 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 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. If proven guilty, he would end up behind bars for 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

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