Inside a low-slung building surrounded by trees in southern Minnesota, there is an old man. Now ailing and in his 90’s, he was once one of the most powerful members of the American mafia. This building is Federal Medical Center Rochester. This man is Louis “Bobby” Manna.
Manna was born in Hoboken in 1929 and, by the 80’s, he had reached the pinnacle of the underworld: consigliere in the Genovese crime family. Of the family’s 14 capos, 4 operated in New Jersey and reported to Manna directly. His empire included a $20 million a year gambling ring, the largest port on the east coast, garbage contracts, and union corruption that netted millions more in ill-gotten gains.
Manna ran this empire from Casella’s Restaurant in Hoboken, a bunker-like structure with almost no legitimate clientele. There, he met with his capos and ruled on disputes. Even corrupt police officers came there to pay their respects.
But despite Manna’s power, all was not well for the Genovese family’s vast operations in the Garden State. John Gotti, leader of the larger Gambino family, wanted a piece. After the Bruno/Scarfo family of Philadelphia fell on hard times, Gotti insisted on taking their lucrative South Jersey rackets, leaving only the less profitable territory in the north to Manna and the Genovese.
Manna couldn’t accept this. He was also incensed by Gotti’s murder of the prior Gambino boss, Paul Castellano, in blatant violation of Cosa Nostra’s rules. As the summer of 1987 faded into fall, Manna began to plan Gotti’s murder.
With lookouts everywhere and his own soldier as the owner, Manna felt comfortable at Casella’s. Perhaps a little too comfortable. He spoke openly of killing Gotti, even using Gotti’s full name and instructing his lieutenants in detail how to murder the Gambino boss.
Perhaps so used to power, Manna destroyed himself by his brazeness. An FBI bug picked up the conversation, along with many others. Manna was convicted of multiple murder plots and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 under the RICO Act.
Manna’s story has an intriguing postscript: in his 90’s and facing the coronavirus pandemic, he petitioned the court to release him to live out his last days with his stepson in Bayonne, NJ. A Change.org petition even circulated to spring the elderly convict from prison.
Federal Judge Peter Sheridan ruled against Manna in December 2020, likely consigning him to death behind bars.
Shortly therafter, his former headquarters was demolished to make way for a park.
More interesting spots in New Jersey:
- The Mafia’s Hoboken Fortress
- A Notorious Mob Informant’s Hoboken Headquarters
- A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?
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