Facing charges that they evaded taxes on nearly $1 million in income, the husband-and-wife owners of Ocean City's popular Manco & Manco pizzerias were ordered in federal court Thursday to give up their passports, and the husband to yield a stash of 16 weapons.
Charles Bangle, 54, and his wife, Mary, 53, were taken into custody Thursday morning at their home in Somers Point, N.J., by IRS investigators, who alleged that the couple concealed money to escape taxes and used it for personal expenses.
The Bangles face 30 counts that include conspiracy to evade income taxes, income tax evasion from 2007 through 2011, and making false statements to the IRS. Charles Bangle also is charged with structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements.
In federal court in Camden on Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio ordered Charles Bangle to give up a weapons collection that includes 12 handguns, two shotguns, and two rifles by 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Charles Bangle, wearing a green long-sleeve shirt, blue jeans, and glasses, spoke only when agreeing to the terms. His attorney, Vincent Sarubbi, declined to discuss the case.
Mary Bangle, who had a public defender but acknowledged to the judge that she planned to retain counsel, appeared in a gray long-sleeved shirt and dark pants. Neither she nor her husband had to enter pleas Thursday. Their formal arraignment was set for April 14.
Their restaurant chain - known as Mack & Manco until 2011 - dates to 1956, and has three locations on Ocean City's boardwalk and one in Somers Point.
An indictment unsealed Thursday alleges that Charles and Mary Bangle were employees of Mack & Manco Pizza until they purchased a controlling interest in 2011. Charles Bangle handled the day-to-day operations, and Mary Bangle, daughter of the late Frank Manco, was responsible for cash and payroll.
The indictment alleges that the Bangles skimmed large sums of cash from the business for five years. Charles Bangle reportedly deposited significant amounts of that cash into their personal TD Bank account in amounts less than $10,000. Transfers of $10,000 or more trigger a report from financial institutions to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The indictment alleges that the Bangles concealed about $981,000 in income from the IRS and used the proceeds for personal expenses. Had the money been reported, authorities allege, the Bangles would have owed an additional $336,273 in taxes.
On the boardwalk in Ocean City, where the Manco name is nothing less than a Shore institution, its reputation built on historically thin crust and its famous sauce hose, there was surprise and raised eyebrows among the people walking on a sunny but crisp afternoon.
"I would have never thought they didn't claim every slice of pizza they sell for $2.50 a slice or whatever they charge," said Doug Richards, who worked for Mack & Manco back in the '70s. "They're renowned all over the place."
The shops - with the still-jarring "Manco & Manco" green lightbulb signs that replaced the "Mack & Manco" signs after the transfer of ownership - were closed due to winter hours.
But among diehards on the actual boardwalk - and the virtual one on Twitter - the consternation was real.
"I'll literally die if Manco and Manco closes," tweeted Alaina Mesmer.
"They've probably been here 100 years," said Norman Kaufman, 79, walking the boardwalk on a trip from Cherry Hill. "I was surprised. I assume they probably will still be open."
For now, Kaufman was making do with curly fries - and the promise of a new Chickie's & Pete's being constructed just a Goofy Golf course away from the flagship Manco's near Ninth Street.
Naturally, with a cheese pie, hold the taxes, story breaking, the pizza puns were immediately in play.
"There's a lot of dough in there - but they kept it," quipped Paul DiFillippo, 85, of Ocean City. "I think they had a lot of crust."
And among crusty locals, there was some skepticism that Manco's deserved its high priest of pizza status, and more than a few people remarked about its prices.
"There are 10 other pizza shops on this boardwalk," DiFillippo said.
Indeed, at Three Brothers Pizza a few doors down, where the owners had opened Thursday after seeing the sunshine, customer Larry Wyatt, 74, dismissed the Manco legend as myth. He prefers the New York style pizza at Three Brothers, which descends from New York pizzerias dating to 1969, he said.
"I won't eat anything that comes out of a tube," he said, referring to the Manco sauce hose.
At the beachfront home in Ocean City where Kay Manco, Frank Manco's widow, still lives, a man answering the door refused to comment. Frank Manco's father, Vincent, helped start the business. Frank Manco died a year ago, but Kay Manco is a familiar sight around Ocean City, having been seen in church just last Sunday.
At the Somers Point store, called Manco & Manco Too, which was open Thursday, employees would not comment, but one patron said he had driven down from Philadelphia and made a specific stop because the boardwalk restaurants were closed. He said he grew up eating Mack & Manco's.
"The pizza's excellent," said the man, who identified himself only as Larry G. "The quality of the pizza is still good."
"I can't believe it," said Maureen Hoffman of Strathmere, eating at the counter. "I mean, I can believe it, but I can't believe it. I was wondering if they were going to be closed. I am just sort of floored."
An employee said the owners had requested that reporters not be allowed in the shop.