Former Harlem Restaurant Owner Allegedly Swindled Investors Of $12 Mill
A former Harlem restaurant owner linked to an ongoing NYPD corruption probe was indicted Friday for defrauding investors in fake liquor business, authorities said.
Hamlet Peralta, 36, was charged with wire fraud by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and was scheduled to be arraigned in Macon, Georgia.
The Daily News reported Friday that Peralta entertained cops at his now defunct Hudson River Cafe on W. 126th St., including Deputy Chief David Colon who was transferred to desk duty Thursday because of a pay-to-play scandal the feds are probing.
Federal prosecutors allege that Peralta swindled investors out of more than $12 million, and used it for fancy clothes, food and other personal expenses, to pay debts and to wire money to himself.
He tricked investors out of the money by conjuring a liquor business out of thin air, and luring people to invest in it from July 2013 through 2014. He promised them major returns, the indictment says.
He only bought $700,000 in wholesale liquor — despite getting some $12 million in investments.
One of his victims was Jona Rechnitz, who owns a midtown investment firm and is one of the people at the center of the NYPD scandal, sources said.
Rechnitz and Borough Park, Brooklyn, businessman Jeremy Reichberg gave gifts to senior police officials, including a trip to Israel to former Chief of Department Phillip Banks.
Peralta was arrested by the FBI in Macon Thursday.
“As alleged, Hamlet Peralta solicited investors for his fictitious wholesale liquor business by peddling wholesale lies,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.
One of Peralta’s investors was a frequent customer at the restaurant.
Peralta promised him 4% return on his money. The investor gave Peralta more than $3.5 million.
He faces 20 years in federal prison.
The Daily News reported Friday that Peralta’s connections with Colon and other cops were behind a policy to go easy on enforcing quality-of-life violations like noise complaints, drinking in public and music playing at 4 a.m.
Peralta left a trail of debt when he went to Macon. He also skipped out on a lawsuit filed against him in Manhattan federal court by four employees of his former restaurant, who allege he owes them tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
“We’re completely disappointed with the fact that it appears that the owner of such a substantial establishment is going to be able to get away without paying the workers what they are owed,” said their lawyer Bruce Menken, reacting to Peralta’s arrest.
Photo credit: Hamlet Peralta, 36, was charged with wire fraud by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and was scheduled to be arraigned in Macon, Georgia.