A former Harlem restaurateur who's accused of a $12 million Ponzi scheme was apparently more involved with allegedly crooked NYPD officers and politicians than previously assumed. Hamlet Perlata, 36, has been under investigation for his connection to police who frequented now-shuttered restaurant Hudson River Cafe, and a new report from DNAinfo finds that a slew of politicians were connected to the restaurant, too. Elected officials spent nearly $16,000 in campaign funds there over the course of six years, from former state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Sources tell DNAinfo that Perlata loved to talk and befriended many people in high places, offering free meals in exchange for help. "He was slick," one source says. "He was a little too slick." He attracted top officials like Philip Banks, once NYPD's highest ranking uniformed officer. Banks even reportedly traveled abroad with Peralta. The former NYPD Chief of Department is currently under investigation for receiving cash in exchange for favors.
Hudson River Cafe ended up acting as a frequent base for politicians, police, and their associates. Banks often could be seen dining there with businessmen Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg — both who are involved with an investigation into Mayor Bill de Blasio's potentially illegal fundraising methods. Clayton Powell spent thousands on fundraising events there, though a spokesman says the politician didn't know Perlata well.
Perlata is being held in lieu of a $5 million bond for his Ponzi scheme charge due to his connections to high ranking police officers and past travel behavior. He was arrested in Georgia, where had had run when he realized the FBI was investigating him, according to the Manhattan District Attorney. Hudson River Cafe closed last year, and besides the federal investigation, Peralta faces a lawsuit from four former employees who say he owes them tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.