Former Harlem Restaurant Owner Sentenced To Five Years In Prison For Engaging In A $12 Million Ponzi Scheme
Hamlet Peralta Told Investors He was Financing Large Wholesale Liquor Purchases, and Instead Used Money to Fund His Lavish Lifestyle and to Pay Back Other Investors
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that HAMLET PERALTA was sentenced by United States District Judge Katherine B. Forrest to five years in prison for running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme to obtain money from investors by fraudulently representing that he was using their investments to further a profitable, multimillion-dollar wholesale liquor business.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Hamlet Peralta swindled millions of dollars from unsuspecting investors who trusted him because of his reputation in the community as a business owner and restaurateur. Peralta deceived investor after investor through bald lies and forged documents, enticing them with high returns on investments he never made. Instead, Peralta used his victims’ money to pay earlier investors and to line his own pockets.”
According to the Complaint and Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court and today’s sentencing proceeding:
From 2013 through 2014, PERALTA solicited more than $12 million from multiple investors by falsely representing that the investors’ money would be used to engage in wholesale liquor distribution for a profit. He made these promises both orally and in written contracts. To bolster the supposed bona fides of his fictitious business, he provided investors with forged invoices and other documentation, purporting to establish the high volume of liquor he both bought from licensed wholesalers in New York and sold to wholesale and retail clients for a profit.
In truth and in fact, however, PERALTA misappropriated the millions of dollars in investments he received. He took out much of the money in cash and used some of it both to support his lifestyle and to rehabilitate a failing restaurant he owned. Because PERALTA purchased very little liquor and had no profits with which to pay back investors, he then began borrowing large sums of money from new investors on the false promise that he was investing that money in the liquor business, instead using that money to repay prior investors.
In or about 2013, for example, PERALTA told a prospective investor (“Investor-1”), who was a frequent customer at PERALTA’s restaurant and who had become friendly with PERALTA, that he (PERALTA) owned a separate business called West 125th Street Liquors and that he had been approved as an exclusive wine distributor to a major national restaurant supply company (the “Restaurant Supply Company”) that was beginning a wholesale wine business. PERALTA told the investor that he would receive significant interest on his investments, based on profits from the wholesale liquor distribution business. In truth and in fact, however, PERALTA did not own West 125th Street Liquors, and he had not been approved to be a distributor for the Restaurant Supply Company. deed, neither PERALTA nor West 125th Street Liquors had ever supplied anything to the Restaurant Supply Company. PERALTA also provided vestor-1 with fake documentation on the Restaurant Supply Company’s letterhead, falsely representing that the Restaurant Supply Company would be electronically transferring $1,826,350 to PERALTA within seven days.
Investor-1 provided PERALTA with more than $3.5 million over the course of the next year, a substantial portion of which was used to pay back other investors. Ultimately, PERALTA owed Investor-1 approximately $2 million. In all, PERALTA, who obtained approximately $12 million from investors, failed to pay back more than $5 million of that money.
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In addition to his prison term, PERALTA, 37, of the Bronx, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $5,079,000 and to pay restitution of $5,079,000.
Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Kan M. Nawaday, Russell Capone, Martin S. Bell, and Lauren Schorr are in charge of the prosecution.