Ex-NYC Restaurateur Accused in $12M Ponzi Scheme Appears in Court

Hamlet Peralta allegedly ran the scheme between 2013 and 2014, authorities said

A former Harlem restaurant owner accused of running a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $12 million appeared before a federal judge Tuesday as prosecutors argued he got some of that money because of his alleged ties to the NYPD. 

Hamlet Peralta, who was arrested in Georgia earlier this month, sat silently inside the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan as prosecutors said the former owner of the Harlem River Cafe was introduced to some of his investors through his NYPD connections. 

Authorities say that Peralta allegedly convinced people to give him money for a liquor wholesale operation and promised high rates of return on interest.

Peralta allegedly used the money he got from investors to pay other benefactors or for personal expenses and only spent about $700,000 of the total investment on the wholesale business, according to the criminal complaint.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that Peralta was close to some officials at the NYPD and even took trips with them to the Dominican Republic. The relationships bolstered his confidence in dealing with investors, prosecutors argued. 

Federal investigators also want to know if he was a key link between two fundraisers for Mayor Bill de Blasio and high-ranking members of the NYPD, part of an investigation that's led to the reassignment of some police officials. 

Peralta's attorney, Cesar de Castro, said to reporters, "We're not gonna comment on the case right now. It's too early to even be talking about that." 

His family also had little to say. They're now looking to secure $5 million bond, 5 co-signers and $1 million cash for Peralta's release.

"We're gonna do our best, see what we can do, I'd like a client who is released and fighting the case," said de Castro. 

Peralta's next court date is May 26. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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