A former New York City restaurateur has been accused of running a $12 million Ponzi scheme, according to federal officials.
Hamlet Peralta was arrested Thursday in Macon, Georgia, on wire fraud charges in the alleged scheme that ripped off hundreds of investors.
“As alleged, Hamlet Peralta solicited investors for his fictitious wholesale liquor business by peddling wholesale lies,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharaha said. “Peralta’s Ponzi scheme allegedly fleeced his victims out of more than $12 million, virtually all of which he spent on himself or to repay other investors.”
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.
In one instance, authorities said that Peralta allegedly told a regular customer at his restaurant in 2013 that he owned a liquor store that had been approved to distribute wine for a major restaurant supply company, even though he didn’t own the liquor store or have approval to be a distributor for the restaurant supply company.
Still, authorities said that he promised the customer a 4 percent interest return on an investment in his company.
The customer invested more than $3.5 million, of which only a small amount was used on wholesale liquor purchases. Prosecutors allege that instead, Peralta used the money to pay other investors, restaurant bills and high-end clothing.
Then, in 2014, Peralta allegedly gave the customer a document on the restaurant supply company’s letterhead showing that the company would transfer $1.8 million to Peralta’s fake company.
If convicted, Peralta faces up to 20 years in federal prison, authorities said.
The attorney who represented him at his initial court appearance did not immediately respond to a comment request.