MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT — The Bronx restaurateur embroiled in the NYPD corruption scandal was not hiding out from authorities when federal investigators tracked him down and arrested him for wire fraud in Macon, GA, his lawyer insisted Friday.
“He was in plain sight,” his lawyer Cesar de Castro said.
Hamlet Peralta, 36, who is charged with fleecing more than $12 million out of investors in his phony liquor business, was overseeing a construction project when he was arrested in April, the attorney said.
Prosecutors charge the former owner of the defunct Hudson River Cafe collected money from investors for what he promised to be a profitable wholesale liquor distribution business.
Instead he spent less than $700,000 on the business and more than $10 million on himself, the feds claim.
The Hudson River Cafe became a mecca for politicians and police officials who held campaign events and dinned out at the riverside restaurant.
One of his victims, Jona Rechnitz, is at the center of the NYPD/City Hall corruption probe, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Several top officials in the NYPD have resigned or been suspended as a result of the investigation.
Peralta, who served three years in prison beginning in 1996 for drug dealing, pleaded not guilty to wire fraud at his arraignment on Friday.
“The grand jury indictment, in which Mr. Peralta was only charged with one count of wire fraud, is simply an allegation and not proof of anything,” de Castro said.
Peralta is being held on $5 million bail. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
“The evidence is not going to show this is $12 million fraud,” the lawyer said.