MANHATTAN — The former Harlem restaurateur who was at the center of a public corruption probe is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, federal prosecutors said.
Hamlet Peralta, 37, raised more than $12 million from investors from 2013 through 2014, which he said would fund a wholesale liquor distribution business, but instead used the money to support a “lavish lifestyle” and “rehabilitate a failing restaurant” that was frequented by major politicians, according to the feds.
“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,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement.
“As Peralta has now admitted, instead of being an honest broker, he stole their money and used it to fund his own lavish lifestyle and to further a massive Ponzi scheme.”
Peralta would show investors documents including forged invoices purporting to show the wholesale business was profitable.
He then borrowed millions from new backers to repay the old investors.
The former Hudson River Café owner was busted last April in Georgia.
One of Peralta’s victims, Jona Rechnitz, was also at the center of a corruption investigation in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising.
Peralta pleaded guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to one count of wire fraud and is set to be sentenced on Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. before Judge Katherine Forrest.
His lawyer was not immediately available for comment.