A former Harlem restaurateur accused of running a $12 million Ponzi scheme linked to an NYPD corruption probe pleaded guilty to wire fraud in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.
Hamlet Peralta, 37, of the Bronx, was charged with making false representations to lure investors into a wholesale liquor business, including at least one NYPD member and Jona Rechnitz, a key cooperating witness in investigations of the NYPD and City Hall corruption.
Peralta, jailed for more than a year, was scheduled to go on trial next week. It was expected to be the first appearance on the witness stand of Rechnitz, a major donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio who is expected to be a key witness at the payoffs trial of two top-ranking former NYPD officials.
Peralta faces up to 20 years in prison and sentencing guidelines call for him to get 51 to 63 months. He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest on Sept. 8.
His lawyer, Cesar de Castro, said, “We look forward to trying to show Judge Forrest who Hamlet Peralta really is and why he deserves an under guidelines sentence.”