Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim announced Friday that a former Harlem business owner was sentenced to five years in prison for running a $12 million Ponzi scheme.

Thirty-seven-year-old Hamlet Peralta of the Bronx, New York, a successful restaurateur, utilized his reputation to obtain money from investors. He told them that the money would be utilized to further a “multimillion dollar wholesale liquor company.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said, “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. Peralta deceived investor after investor through bald lies and forged documents, enticing them with high returns on investments he never made. Instead, Peralta used his victims’ money to pay earlier investors and to line his own pockets.”

Peralta solicited over $12 million from several investors from 2013 through 2014, by promising investors, orally and in writing, their money would be utilized to engage in liquor distribution for a profit. He forged documents and invoices to establish the large amount of liquor he sold to retail and wholesale clients and bought from licensed New York wholesalers, according to court documents.

Peralta utilized the money to support his failing restaurant and to fund his lavish lifestyle. He only purchased a small amount of liquor and had no money to repay investors. To repay some investors, he obtained loans from new investors, utilizing the same scheme.

Peralta told a potential investor that he owned West 125th Street Liquors and was a wine distributor for a major national restaurant supply company. He provided the investor with falsified documents on the company’s letterhead. The document stated that $1,826,350 would be transferred to Peralta within the next seven days.

Peralta received $3.5 million from the investor over the next year. A large portion of the money was utilized to repay other investors. He was left owing over $5 million of the $12 million he obtained from the investors and about $2 million to the investor who provided him with $3.5 million.

Peralta was ordered to pay restitution of $5,079,000, along with the 5-year prison sentence.

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