THE BAD OLD DAYS: Appeals Highlight Genovese Family Plot To Kill Gambino Boss John Gotti, Brother Gene

Two Garden State mobsters, including the former head of the Genovese crime family's New Jersey contingent, are seeking to get out of prison on arguments that their decades-old convictions—for ordering a hit on a businessman in an Upper East Side Italian restaurant as well as for plotting to murder top members of the Gambino family—should be overturned owing to prosecutorial misconduct.

Louis (Bobby) Manna,
Bobby Manna, center, and crew were nabbed in 1988.

Former Genovese consiglieri Louis (Bobby) Manna, who served in the regime of Vincent (Chin) Gigante, and co-defendant Richard (Bocci) DeSciscio, an alleged associate whom Manna entrusted with carrying out murders, posed their arguments (via their attorneys) in motions recently filed in Federal court.

Manna, 91, and DeSciscio and co-defendants Martin (Motts) Casella, who owned Casella's Restaurant, a Genovese hangout, and  Frank (Dipsy) Daniello, a retired Hoboken police lieutenant, were charged for involvement in plotting to murder John Gotti and his older bother Gene—and two other murders: the January 1977 murder of Frank Bok Chung Chin, an electronics expert who had agreed to testify for the government (this blogger found little detail on this killing) and the 1987 execution of Irwin (The Fat Man) Schiff, a 350-pound mobbed-up businessman who was slain while dining with a lady friend at the Upper East Side restaurant Bravo Sergio....

Bravo Sergio one night in August 1987... the small, intimate Italian restaurant on Second Avenue near 75th Street is more of a neighborhood place than, say, the more upscale Sparks Steak House... Schiff—a regular customer who "loved to eat," as the chef would later say—and his date (the New York papers will later dub her the "mysterious blonde") have finished dining (Schiff's last meal was a Caesar salad, double shrimp cocktail, veal rollatini, and rigatoni with bacon, onions, and tomato, followed by bananas and strawberries flambe), and he is paying the $90 bill, plus $30 tip, in cash—and a tall masked man wearing a dark suit and gripping a .38-caliber pistol quietly slips into the restaurant via a side door. He walks up behind Schiff and blasts him twice in the head ....the blonde companion, along with all the other startled patrons and the staff hurried out of the restaurant in the moments after the shooting.... Somewhere on the scene was Bocci DeSciscio, prosecutors later allege, in case the shooter needed assistance....

Manna is currently incarcerated at a federal prison in Minnesota and is not eligible to be released until 2054. DeSciscio, 78, is in prison in Pennsylvania with a 2052 slated release.

Casella died behind bars in 1992. Daniello died in 2007.

In the current bid to get out of prison, Manna and DeSciscio allege via their attorneys that their 1989 convictions were based on “solely manufactured evidence, inconsistent testimony and a faulty elicited identification.”

“Manna’s conviction, predicated on falsely interpreted tapes, could have been avoided but for the Government’s win at any cost position,” the defense argued in a 29-page court filing.

“Today, more than 30 years later, we respectfully ask this court to have the Government affirmatively answer for their wrongs, which caused this miscarriage of justice.”

"Iandolo said Manna was targeted in part because of his eight-year refusal to cooperate with law enforcement in a separate investigation earlier in the 1980s," according Daily News reporter Larry McShane, who also noted that Manna once refused a shot of Novocaine prior to a prison house tooth extraction because he feared he might break omerta while under the influence of the drug.

Manna, who had sought compassionate release last year, suffers from a long list of health problems, including colitis, a hernia, high blood pressure, vertigo and ulcers, his lawyers allege. 

A Federal judge shot down the compassionate release request.

“Manna was a leader in the Genovese family, a street boss, who accomplished (La Cosa Nostra) goals through violence and intimidation,” U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan wrote in his denial of Manna’s motion for compassionate release. “Despite the fact that he is considered “frail” and has some medical issues, the nature of his life as a career criminal and his leadership in the Genovese family outweigh his age and medical issues. "

The U.S. Attorney’s Office fought his release, arguing that Manna was exaggerating his health issues and that Manna was “generally independent with his activities of daily living.”

Manna is one of many of Federal inmates who sought compassionate release from prison due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The warden at his prison initially recommended Manna be released to live with his stepson in Bayonne, but the Office of the General Counsel, which needs to sign off on any BOP-approved early releases, rejected the warden’s recommendation.

Manna, DeSciscio, Casella, and Daniello were among the members and associates of the Genovese family who were nabbed in a June 1988 roundup by the FBI and New Jersey State Police (see video below). Manna and his co-defendants were slammed with a 42-count indictment that also charged them with extortion, loan sharking, labor racketeering, and gambling.

In 1989, US District Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, the sister of the former president, said the evidence ″fairly shrieked of the defendants’ guilt,″ and she sentenced Manna and Casella to 80 years in prison and DeSciscio to 75 years. The government said Manna was the Genovese crime family’s No. 3 leader, Casella was Manna’s chief lieutenant in running the family's New Jersey rackets, and DeSciscio was alleged to be a "hitman" for the Genovese family. (Daniello, the former cop, was the only defendant in the case to skate on the major racketeering charges and was sentenced to only four years in prison.)

During opening statements at the 1989 trial, which used an anonymous jury out of fear of mob retaliation, then-First Assistant US Attorney Michael Chertoff alleged that a dispute erupted between the Gambino and Genovese crime families in 1987, which led to the plot to kill John and Gene Gotti.

Federal authorities foiled the plot when they alerted Gotti to the hit shortly before they charged Manna and his crew.

At a July 1988 bail hearing for Manna, Casella, and DeSciscio, the Feds  released transcripts of Genovese murder plots against Gambino rivals John and Gene Gotti, and reputed mob associate Irwin Schiff.

Casella's Restaurant
Casella's, Genovese hangout in Hoboken, is now a derelict property.

The transcripts were based on 12 conversations that the authorities said took place at Casella's Restaurant, an Italian restaurant in Hoboken where Manna held court in his heyday.

The conversations occurred between Aug. 5, 1987, and Jan. 14, 1988, and were intercepted by devices hidden in the restaurant, according to the FBI.

In the Aug. 5 conversation, Casella and two men, whose identities are not known, discussed the impending slaying of Schiff, who Federal officials said had links to both the Genovese and Gambino crime families and was thought to have been skimming money owed the Genovese family.

''You wanna hit him?'' one of the unidentified men said, according to the transcript.

''We'll do him good at night,'' the other man replied. ''Bobby Manna didn't like CC.''

Chertoff said ''CC'' was a code name for Schiff, based on Construction Coordinators, a New York business in which he held an interest.

''I'll bring it up at a meeting and we'll discuss it,'' Casella responded.

Aug. 8, Schiff was shot in the head twice while dining at a Manhattan restaurant

Two days later, Casella talked about the murder with two men identified by Federal authorities as Genovese family associates: Daniello, a retired Hoboken police lieutenant, and James Napoli of Brooklyn.

''The place was jammed, all the people ran out,'' Daniello said in an apparent reference to the aftermath of the shooting. ''Bobby picked this kid out,'' he added - a reference, authorities said, to Manna's selecting the gunman in the Schiff slaying.

Daniello said, ''It takes guts though to do it like that, this kid was a. . . .''

''Stone killer," Casella responded.

The plot against John Gotti first came up on Sept. 21 in a conversation among Manna, Casella and Daniello.

Chertoff said the plan was to hit Gotti near a club he frequented on Woodhaven Boulevard and 101st Avenue in Ozone Park, Queens.

1980s chart of Genovese crime family's New Jersey faction, according to the FBI.

''Wear a disguise,'' Manna said. ''It's an open place.''

An unidentified man asked: ''Do you know where you'se are going to do this guy?''

''Yeah, on that corner,'' Casella responded.

''You know, this should be good and fast if it's John Gotti up on the Boulevard and, ah, hundred and one,'' the man said.

The F.B.I. subsequently notified Gotti of the reported plot, and, according to an Oct. 9 transcript, the Genovese associates learned of the warning.

''Hey, John Gotti knows,'' Casella said on Oct. 9.

An unidentified man responded, ''John Gotti knows we. . . .''

''That we ordered it?'' another man said.

But the plotting continued, the authorities said.

On Jan. 10, Manna was overheard saying, ''a big hit, John Gotti,'' and then apparently discussing with DeSciscio and others the selection of a gunman.

Two days later, in a conversation between Manna and James Napoli, Manna said: ''Gene Gotti's dead.''

''When are you gonna hit him?'' Napoli asked.

''Gene Gotti's dead," Manna repeated.

''We're gonna be paying for this, you know, for the rest of our lives,'' Napoli said.