A former Manhattan restaurant owner has been arrested on charges that he ran a $12 million Ponzi scheme, prosecutors said on Friday, in a case that a source said was linked to an ongoing corruption probe involving the New York Police Department.
Hamlet Peralta, who owned the Hudson River Cafe in Harlem, was accused in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan of fleecing investors by falsely claiming their money would be used for a wholesale liquor business.
"As alleged, Hamlet Peralta solicited investors for his fictitious wholesale liquor business by peddling wholesale lies," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Peralta was arrested on Thursday by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Macon, Georgia, and was expected to appear in court there later on Friday. A lawyer for Peralta could not be immediately identified.
The charges came a day after a report in the New York Daily News linked Peralta to ongoing corruption probe that a source previously confirmed to Reuters was looking at whether officers received free trips and gifts from businessmen.
Four high-ranking New York City Police Department commanders on Thursday were transferred based on what Police Commissioner William Bratton said was information developed in the investigation.
The exact connection between Peralta's case and the probe was unclear from court papers. But a person familiar with the matter confirmed Peralta's case was linked to that same NYPD probe.
The New York Daily News reported on Thursday that Peralta enjoyed special treatment from police officers at his now-shuttered restaurant, and that one of the officers transferred on Thursday was a regular there.
The case is being handled by federal prosecutors in public corruption unit, and the NYPD worked with the FBI in the investigation, authorities said.
Prosecutors said that from 2013 to 2014, Peralta, 36, solicited more than $12 million from investors to be used to engage in wholesale liquor distribution, promising high rates of return.
In reality, Peralta bought no more than $700,000 in wholesale liquor and instead used over $11 million to pay back other investors and for personal expenses including restaurant bills, high-end clothing and spa treatments, prosecutors said.