A New York man has been arrested and charged with taking in more than $12 million from investors who believed they were investing in a profitable wholesale liquor business. Hamlet Peralta, 36, currently faces a single charge of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. The case against Peralta, who previously owned a New York restaurant, was brought by the Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the case is part of a larger ongoing corruption probe involving other New York businessmen.
According to the complaint, Peralta previously served as President of West 125th Street Liquors ("West Liquors"), a title which is currently held by his sister. In or around July 2013, Peralta soliciting funds for what he touted as a profitable wholesale liquor distribution venture. Peralta told potential investors that he had been approved as an exclusive wine distributor for a large national restaurant supply company that was beginning a wholesale wine business and that Peralta would be in charge of sourcing, purchasing, and supplying the wine. Investors were promised a short term return ranging from 2% to 4% and told that Peralta was the President of West Liquors. Based on these representations, Peralta is accused of raising at least $12 million from 12 investors.
However, of the $12 million raised by Peralta for the purported wine distribution business, the complaint alleges that approximately $700,000 was used for the purchase of wholesale liquor while Peralta also made several smaller purchases of $10,000 or less for liquor to be sold in West Liquors. The remaining funds were allegedly used for Ponzi payments to existing investors as well as to prop up Peralta's lavish lifestyle through dining expenses, high-end clothing purchases, and spa treatments. Authorities also allege that the bank account used by Peralta to handle incoming investments belonged to Peralta's sister, the current President of West Liquors, and that Peralta represented to his sister that the incoming and outgoing payments were in connection with loans for his restaurant.
A copy of the Complaint is below: