Everything to Know About the Kidnapping/Murder of Carlo Gambino's Nephew

Jerry Capeci nailed the "what the hell?" story about James McBratney and Henry Sentner in a column titled Ralph The Wig Pulled The Trigger; Gotti Got The Glory that ran back in September 2011....

McBratney and Sentner were separate incidents.....

Sentner was hauling 35 pounds of marijuana.
Sentner's bio would be interesting.....

We did make an interesting discovery, however, a transcript of an interview with an FBI agent who was part of the Manny Gambino kidnapping investigation.

Below you will read an "inside account" of the "kidnapping" including the following:

"(Robert Sentner) tells us that he was driving the vehicle and that (Manny) Gambino had threatened him, because he owed Gambino like $80,000 from gambling debts. And that Gambino said to him, “Hey, you don’t come up with the money, your sister’s baby is going to have problems.” Or words to that effect. 
At this time, Sentner takes out a 22 caliber gun, which he had in his pocket, sticks it behind Gambino’s left ear and kills him....

First, we present the explanation from Gang Land News (you'd think by now we'd remember to check Gang Land News first for just about anything and everything Five Family-related):

"The need for a small Mafia history lesson was triggered by last week’s exclusive look at the working script for the movie version of the life and crimes of John Gotti and his son Junior. The item brought numerous queries about the kidnap-murder of Carlo Gambino’s nephew and its impact on the mob career of the late Mafia boss.

Answer: They were two separate events, easily confused.

To begin with, the elder Gotti was involved in the slaying of 32-year-old Irish hoodlum James McBratney, but as Gene Mustain and I wrote in “Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti,” back in 1988, “McBratney was not part of the Gambino kidnap scheme.”

McBratney was part of a multi-ethnic gang that had kidnapped mobsters for ransom, and he paid a fatal price for that. Gotti and longtime crony Angelo Ruggiero part of the three-man hit team that found him in Snoope’s Bar in Staten Island on May 22, 1973 and killed him. According to court records, as Gotti and Ruggiero were struggling with McBratney, Ralph (The Wig) Galione put three bullets into his chest.

The so-called kidnap-murder of Emanuel Gambino was not a kidnapping at all. In fact, it was a robbery-murder by a gambler who owed Gambino $76,000 and lured him to a deserted Navy base in Monmouth County, NJ where he claimed to have money hidden. Instead, the gambler, Henry Robert Sentner, who owned a sports memorabilia store, shot Gambino in the head and killed him.

Seven days later, on May 25, 1972, after enlisting three thugs to carry out a kidnap scam, Sentner sent a letter to Gambino’s wife demanding a $350,000 ransom. Ultimately, Sentner pleaded guilty, fingered his accomplices, and was sentenced to 15 years. His cohorts pleaded guilty to extortion charges, and received lesser prison terms.

What’s most remarkable is that Sentner whacked a Godfather’s nephew – and survived. That’s because try as it might, the Gambino family never succeeded in exacting revenge against Sentner.

On November 22, 1974, while Sentner was housed in the old Federal House of Detention on West Street, he drank strychnine-laced cocoa that someone had kindly offered him. He fell violently ill and was rushed to the now-defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital. There, doctors pumped his stomach, and nursed him back to health...."

You can read the rest of the story here, but it's subscription-only.

What's more remarkable, in our view, is that this is the first and possibly only time the Mafia went to the FBI, in a manner of speaking. Manny Gambino's family reached out to the FBI for help. Don't take my word for it -- read the transcript....
Interview of Former Special Agent of the FBI Paul J. Brana (1954 – 1978) by Brian R. Hollstein on March 30, 2005.

Brian R. Hollstein: My name is Brian R. Hollstein. I am interviewing Paul J. Brana. Today’s date is the 30th of March, 2005. We’re at the New York Athletic Club, New York City, and we’ll get started with our interview.

We don’t want to have the names of any informants mentioned out loud. We don’t want any companies that might have been used as covers. This will be reviewed by the Bureau pre-publication people.....

Paul J. Brana: I continued to do organized crime undercover operations.

The last one that I did was probably, I did it from 1962 to 1974. The last one that I did was on the Carlo Gambino family, was running a gambling operation in Brooklyn.

Hollstein: That was a colorful crowd that was in that crew also there at the time. Is that the one where they had the installation that was found?

Brana: You’re talking about the gambling operation. Oh, no it isn’t. No. No. That was a different one.

No. As a matter of fact, this was 1974 that I was undercover in that operation. And in 1987, during the trial of John Gotti, I testified during the John Gotti trial because now he was being charged with RICO, and they were showing, you know, the continuing operation from 1974, you know, until 1985, you know, that it was still being run by Gotti.

But you know, you talk about a small world. Maurice Roussell and I get involved in the murder of Manny Gambino. And this was a straight out investigation.

And we had an individual who was suspect as the killer of Manny Gambino but we had no evidence.  Because we couldn’t… We had no evidence. We could not find Gambino’s automobile until about four or five months after. His automobile was found parked at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

No body. He’s disappeared. Oh, and what had occurred was that there was an attempt to… There was an alleged kidnapping of Manny Gambino and they attempted to extort money from the Gambino family. We know that he’s dead, you know, because he has disappeared.

Hollstein: Sure. Well, now, that was an interesting case too. Just going back a little bit. He was what? A cousin of Carlo Gambino? Or a…

Brana: He was a nephew of Carlo Gambino.

Hollstein: And his mother, or some women in the group actually called the FBI. That was the first time they had ever called the FBI.
Brana: Yeah. The FBI received a call, and I think that there was an FBI agent there during the alleged payoff. He was one of our…

Hollstein: The whole thing was managed as a kidnap investigation. That had never had been done before. …organized crime…
Brana: It really wasn’t run as a kidnapping operation by the FBI. There was only one agent. What was the Italian agent's name? Tony? We had an Italian agent who had informants. I think he might have been there at the time of the payoff.

Hollstein: I’m probably getting it mixed up with the Bronfmans.

Brana: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Hollstein: That’s a whole different story.

Brana: Oh yes.

Hollstein: The Gambino’s… I was out on that too. And we were around interviewing all kinds of OC figures.

Brana: Oh, really.

Hollstein: All over the place. All over Brooklyn. Yeah.

Brana: Yeah, yeah.

Hollstein: Yeah. It was an excuse to get in there and talk to these guys. They weren’t happy about it.

Brana: We came up with this Robert Henry Sentner as an individual suspect. The way that we came up with him… On the night of the payoff, which was made at Fort Lee, New Jersey. I think there was, maybe, $130,000 was paid off. A ransom was actually paid at Fort Lee, New Jerse

The police at night would go around and check the license, would take the license numbers of all the vehicles that were parked in the area. And they come up with a license plate that’s a rental license plate to a van rented to this Robert Henry Sentner.

And somehow or another, Sentner is known to Maurice Roussell. And Maurice Roussell and I contact Sentner. And we bring him into the City, and we start talking to him. And we would talk to him, sometimes… once a week we’d bring him in.

Sentner was a young guy. Georgetown University graduate. And we would interview him very, very frequently. We had a hotel. We would get a six-pack of beer and we would go up and kind of try to relax him.

The vehicle … Gambino’s vehicle had not been found. It was subsequently found at Teterboro Airport. All the glass is taken off the vehicle and sent to Washington for fingerprints. After about five months from the initial alleged kidnapping and payoff, the window on the driver’s side is found to have Sentner’s thumbprint inside the window quite a distance from the edge.

So I tell Sentner, “You were driving the vehicle because your thumbprint is in the vehicle.” And I kept breaking his chops. He finally admits to killing the guy. We had no evidence whatsoever that there had been a killing.

Hollstein: The guy just disappeared, right?

Brana: Exactly. But he tells us that he was driving the vehicle and that Gambino had threatened him, because he owed Gambino like $80,000 from gambling debts. And that Gambino said to him, “Hey, you don’t come up with the money, your sister’s baby is going to have problems.” Or words to that effect.

At this time, Sentner takes out a 22 caliber gun, which he had in his pocket, sticks it behind Gambino’s left ear and kills him. That’s the story that he tells us.

Now of course we have no body. “Come on I’ll take you to the body.” He takes us down to Redbank, New Jersey. And, of course all the senior Resident Agents… Nobody wanted to get involved in digging up the body, so I had to call up New York and bring one of my agents over. Wayne Orrell, an Indian. And…

Hollstein: From Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Brana: And Sentner takes us over and he says, “This is where the body is.” And I got Wayne, and he digs up the body. Which makes the first page of the Daily News, because I called up Norma Abrams, who was a reporter for the Daily News. And they sent a photographer out, took a picture of …

Hollstein: I think Charlie Christopher was in on that one too, if I remember correctly. They both came back complaining about the job. I remember that.

Brana: Yeah, the name sounds familiar. We got a lot of good press on that one.

Hollstein: And quite a bit of intelligence too, because we were out. There were lots of interviews being done of Gambino people and I talked to some old woman with… Steve Edwards and I went out on that one. And we talked to some old woman. And she had the most enormous Doberman Pincer. All that dog wanted to do was eat us.

Brana: Is that right?

Hollstein: It was just killing him to have to sit there. And he was watching and watching. Any move we’d make, he was gonna nail us.

Brana: You want to hear a Gambino story?

In 1990, we have a Manhattan College reunion. And one of the guys, who had been in my class, who was now a supervisor with the Internal Revenue Service … “Hey Paul, what do you think of Tommy Gambino?”

I said, “What are you talking about? He says, “You remember Tommy that was in our class.” I says, “Yeah, he was a good friend of mine. What about him?” He says, “That’s the Tommy Gambino that’s son of Carlo Gambino.” I said, “You’re kidding me.”

Hollstein: You were connected and you didn’t know it.

Brana: I never. Here, we get involved in the Manny Gambino case. I never knew that Tommy, who was a good friend of mine in college, who was a real nice guy. I never knew that he was the Tommy Gambino.

As a matter of fact, Tommy has, since that time, done all kinds of jail time. He runs the garment center as well as the trucking down there. Good Catholic kid.

Hollstein: Yeah. Well brought up, you know. So many of these stories when you watch “The Sopranos” on TV…or some of these Mafia folks like the Good Guys, Goodfellas” …

Brana: “Goodfellas”

Hollstein: I was sitting at lunch, I said, “That’s exactly… Those are the people we dealt with.” They look like that; they talk like that.

Brana: Yeah, yeah.

Hollstein: That’s the way they are....

If you want to download and read the entire transcript, click here.



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