• Former Manhattan Restaurant Owner Arrested for Running a $12 Million Ponzi Scheme

    Author : May 2, 2016

    Former Manhattan Restaurant Owner Arrested for Running a $12 Million Ponzi Scheme

    Who: Hamlet Peralta, former Manhattan restaurant owner, the Defendant.

    What: Peralta was charged by the Southern District of New York federal court with 1 count of Wire Fraud (carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison).

    Where: New York. Peralta is from Bronx, New York.

    When: The crimes allegedly happened between about July 2013 to 2014. Peralta was charged on April 8, 2016.

    Why: Peralta was a Manhattan restaurant owner. He was the President and owner of a liquor store called West 125th Street Liquors (the “liquor store”) in the past, but his sister currently is and has been for about the past 6 years.

    Peralta allegedly solicited upwards of $12 million from different investors by claiming that he would use the money to engage in for-profit wholesale liquor distribution, promising generous returns of regular interest payments. Instead, he allegedly used only $700,000 of these funds to purchase wholesale liquor, and used the rest to pay back other investors, wire money to himself, withdraw large amounts of cash, and pay for other personal expenses.

    How: Peralta allegedly opened multiple bank accounts for the liquor store in his own name, which he used to conduct these wire transfers to himself and make the cash withdrawals.

    At the time that these accounts were opened, only his sister had signature authority for the liquor store, and Peralta was neither the signatory nor the President of the liquor store.

    He told at least one investor, who was a patron at his restaurant and with whom he had become friendly, that he was beginning a wholesale liquor business and was seeking investors. He claimed that he owned the liquor store, and that he had been approved as an exclusive wine distributor to a major national restaurant supply company.

    What followed from an investigation of Peralta’s accounts for the liquor store were a series of wire transfers from the investors into these accounts, wire transfers out of the accounts to different investors, wire transfers to Peralta himself, large cash withdrawals, and personal expenses such as restaurant bills, high end clothing purchases, gas and spa treatments.

    Only a fraction of the total investments were used to purchase liquor of any kind.

    A search of Peralta’s email account revealed 12 investors allegedly defrauded in Peralta’s scheme, using the same or similar language regarding wholesale liquor distribution. There was no evidence found that Peralta was in business of the kind he described to these investors.

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