Henry Robert Senter (c. 1936 Sea Girt, New Jersey) was an Italian-American Gambino crime family mafioso and eventual stool pigeon who was convicted of murdering Emanuel Gambino, the son of Joseph Gambino, and paternal nephew of Gambino patriarch Carlo Gambino. Robert pleaded guilty on June 1, 1973 and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for Gambino's murder before being released in 1988. His fellow mob associate, James McBratney was murdered for his own role in orchestrating the kidnapping by Angelo Ruggiero, John Gotti and Ralph Galione. Robert was also an associate of the notorious DeMeo crew with his paternal nephew Anthony Senter, headed by Roy DeMeo.
Henry Robert Senter was born to Italian-American emigrants from Rovereto, Italy. He started the Canarsie Recycling Company that is located at 8029 Foster Avenue in Canarsie, Brooklyn. While Canarsie Recycling was under his management, Senter was involved in waste management and union racketeering. Robert is a maternal uncle of Dominic Vulpis and the paternal uncle of Gambino crime family associate Anthony Senter. Later, after Anthony's father died of a blood clot Henry became the legal guardian of Anthony. Anthony was not under strict parental supervision and abandoned by his father, he soon became involved in organized crime with his uncle Robert. He is the brother of Michael Senter, the father of Anthony Senter and would later be the great uncle of Anthony M. Senter Jr., the son of his nephew.
Sometime in October 1972, Senter was recruited to become a part of the kidnapping-ransom ring with McBratney, along with fellow Irish-American Warren Schurman, Edward Maloney and John Kilcullen and Colombo crime family mob associate Thomas Genovese. The Miano brothers had told McBratney and the others that they only wanted 10% of the ransom payment and had thought up the kidnapping plan for what they called "revenge." He participated in the successful ransom kidnapping of Gambino crime family made man Francesco "Frank the Wop" Manzo in front of mob associates Jimmy Burke and Henry Hill while dining at a Forest Hills, New York dinner club, The Suite. The crew received a ransom of $150,000 for Manzo's safe return. Following the kidnapping of Manzo, Senter and the others were involved in three other successful ransom kidnappings.
The murder of James McBratney
In response to the kidnapping and murder of his nephew, Carlo Gambino put a contract for the murder of the gang's ring leader, James McBratney. He handed the contract to Aniello Dellacroce and offered the person who murdered McBratney immediate initiation into the Gambino crime family as a "made man." On May 22, 1973, Angelo Ruggiero, John Gotti and Ralph Galione entered a bar where McBratney sat. They began pulling McBratney up and away from the bar. Galione told him, "You're under arrest. You've been this route before; don't give us any trouble." After a patron attempted to intervene, Galione fired two shots into the ceiling of the restaurant. patrons fled the establishment Galione ordered the other patrons to stand against a wall, but a waitress had slipped away and called the police from a payphone. McBratney struggled with his attackers and managed to drag all of them several feet toward the end of the bar,but could not get free. Galione walked toward McBratney, and fired three times at close range, killing him.
Gambino Kidnapping and murder investigation
Senter was a pathological gambler who was a loanshark customer of Emanuel Gambino. His nephew Anthony also worked as a "numbers runner" for Gambino to whom Robert was indebted for $70,000. In order to remedy this he allegedly kidnapped Gambino and held him for ransom.
FBI Agent Anthony Villano, in his autobiography Brick Agent, later wrote about the murder investigation:
"It took five interviews with him (Robert Senter) over a period of months before we reconstructed the entire venture. The snatch began as a hoax. Manny Gambino worked out a scenario with his debtor Senter, a friend of Senter's, and two others. Midway through the plot, Gambino's accomplices began to have their doubts. They could see that if things went sour Manny Gambino would give them up, either on a contract to LCN (La Cosa Nostra) friends or to the law. There was an argument in Gambino's Cadillac Eldorado and Senter settled the dispute with a bullet to the back of Manny's head."
On December 4, 1972, Robert Senter was arrested and confessed to the murder of Gambino. He also revealed the identities of Richard Chaisson and Warren Schurman who were his two accomplices. On June 1, 1973 Robert pleaded guilty to carrying out the murder of Emanuel Gambino and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. While he was away, his nephew Anthony's crew used his Canarsie Recycling Company as a burial ground for murder victims of Roy DeMeo and the Gambino crime family, which his nephew later became affiliated with. When his uncle Robert went to prison for the murder of Emanuel Gambino, Anthony was eighteen years old. Robert Senter was released in 1988 when Anthony was in his early thirties.