Man with past mob ties charged with beating RHONJ star in home invasion
HOLMDEL — It's the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" meets "The Sopranos."
A career criminal with past ties to the mob has been charged with beating up a former RHONJ cast member and her fiance after breaking into their home in 2017.
James "Jimmy Balls" Mainello, 51, was arrested at his home in Bayonne on Friday nearly two years after the bizarre attack in which "an Italian guy with a North Jersey accent" told the pair: "This is what happens when you f*** with people from Paterson."
Monmouth County prosecutors said Mainello and another man were lying in wait inside the Banyan Boulevard home of David Cantin on May 13, 2017, when Cantin and Dina Manzo were bum-rushed by the two assailants as they walked through their front door.
Cantin said he was beaten with a baseball bat, breaking his nose, while the other assailant pushed Manzo against a wall and covered her mouth. Manzo said he then pushed her to the floor and kicked her, according to the affidavit of probable cause against Mainello.
Manzo said the man then took her engagement ring off her finger and gave her that menacing greeting from Paterson.
Prosecutors did not publicly state whether they knew what motivated the attack.
The victims told police that the robbers tied them up and left after taking $500 in cash in Cantin's wallet.
Cantin told police he could not identify the pair because they wore hats with bandanas over their faces. He did describe one of the men as being "an Italian guy with a North Jersey accent."
Cantin freed himself and called police about 10:54 p.m. He and Manzo were hospitalized.
In a joint statement released by the couple's attorney on Friday, Cantin and Manzo said they “so grateful to the New Jersey law enforcement authorities, whose diligent investigation over the last two years culminated in today’s arrest."
"Thank you to everyone who has expressed concern for our well-being. We’ve had such a great support system,” they said.
Prosecutors on Friday did not say how they came to identify Mainello as the suspect. They also have not said whether they've identified the second robber.
Mainello has a criminal convictions history in New Jersey dating back to the late 1980s, including a nine-year burglary sentence in 1994. In 2005, federal prosecutors in New York tied him to an organized crime robbery conspiracy, for which he was convicted. He was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison and then placed on three months of house arrest in 2009 after violating the conditions of his supervised release.
A federal judge also ordered Mainello not to "associate with any member or associate of the Luchese organized crime family" or any Mafia group.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Friday whether Mainello had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
“I want to congratulate our investigations team and our counterparts at the Holmdel Police
Department for never letting up on finding answers for this crime," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said. "Dogged determination and a lot of good old-fashioned police work went into making this arrest possible.”
In the Holmdel case, Mainello was charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree robbery, second-degree burglary, second-degree aggravated assault, third-degree aggravated assault, third-degree theft, third- and fourth-degree weapons offenses and third-degree criminal restraint.
Manzo, whose legal first name is Claudine, appeared in the first two seasons of the Bravo reality-TV show with her sister, Caroline. She returned in 2014. Her Facebook profile shows her last name as Cantin but the couple has not said whether they've married.
Manzo grew up in Wayne and many of the show's cast members have hailed from Passaic County.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.