The snaking lines of flip-flop-wearing customers waiting for slices of pizza in front of Manco & Manco's had dwindled on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J., last week as summer gasped its last breath.
Also gone, along with the frenetic summertime scenes in front of the pizzeria's newest location was one of its owners, Charles Bangle. The popular Jersey Shore figure often pounded the secret dough in front of customers, helping make pies that have been a boardwalk staple for decades.
Bangle, 57, has reported to a federal prison in Cumberland County to serve a 15-month term for tax evasion. He was assigned to a minimum-security satellite camp adjacent to the Fairton Federal Correctional Institution in rural Fairfield Township on Sept. 12, according to Justin Long, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The camp holds 111 male inmates and offers work opportunities. It's about 30 miles from Bangle's home in Somers Point, just outside Ocean City.
In February, Bangle's lawyer, Laurence Shtasel, of Philadelphia, persuaded U.S. District Judge Judge Robert Kugler to delay the start of his client's prison term for seven months — until after Labor Day — to give Bangle a chance to launch his largest pizza palace yet. It is inside the former boardwalk movie theater, the Strand. It has seating for about 100 and was frequently packed after opening June 29.
Shtasel declined comment Friday. But during Bangle's sentencing hearing, attended by more than 100 supporters, Shtasel said the success of the new venture depended on Bangle's being there for the opening season. Manco & Manco also operates two other Ocean City boardwalk locations as well as in Somers Point.
"If the project is not completed, it could spell the ruin of this company. It could have an effect on many people: employees, the community, even the government," Shtasel said then. He said it could jeopardize Bangle's ability to pay $248,560 in restitution to the U.S. Treasury.
Bangle's wife, Mary, a co-owner, said in a brief phone interview Friday that the new pizza business "went really well." When asked who is running it now, she said: "That's all I want to say right now."
Mary Bangle was sentenced to three years' probation for lying to IRS agents during their probe into the company's finances. She is the daughter of the late Frank Manco, one of the founders who started Mack & Manco in 1956. After he and his partners split up, the shops in Ocean City were renamed Manco & Manco.
Charles Bangle was charged with concealing nearly $1 million in income from 2007 to 2011 and failing to pay more than $330,000 in taxes. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion involving a lesser amount and admitted making multiple bank deposits in increments below $10,000 to escape IRS scrutiny.
Kugler also questioned then why the couple decided to open a new pizza place this summer when they had not yet begun making payments to pay back their debt to taxpayers.
At that time, Charles Bangle said that they needed the new venture to help get out of debt and to restructure their finances.
With his projected prison release date set for next October, he could miss next summer's business, unless he receives earlier parole.
Michele Gillian, director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the Bangles' "new location was a hit" this summer. "It really is an asset to Ocean City," she said.
Gillian said that Catherine Manco, the widow of the founder, "still sits at the counter and directs everything" and that Mary Bangle also supervises. The second phase of the renovations is expected to provide seating upstairs for private parties and events, Gillian said.
Bernard Murray, a loyal customer for decades, said he contacted Manco & Manco months ago to see if it could set aside space for him and his wife, Patricia, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with 37 friends, family, children, and grandchildren on Aug 5. The large group was ushered to a couple of long tables in the back, ahead of about 100 other hungry customers who were waiting in line, said Murray, a Pittsburgh native who moved to Surfside, S.C., after he retired.
"It was tremendous. It was where the kids decided we should go. … We went for the memories, and they do have the best pizza," he said.
Murray said he had read about the tax evasion, but dismissed it as common in the pizza trade.
"I had a friend in Pittsburgh who owned a pizza place and they caught him, and he lost his boats, mobile homes, and everything," he said.
If only Manco's accepted credit cards, Murray lamented.