MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A former Hempstead Village deputy mayor and current trustee has been indicted on multiple felony charges following an investigation earlier this year that authorities claim uncovered a scheme to shake down business owners for protection money.
On Tuesday, a grand jury indictment was filed against Perry Pettus, 62, and his alleged partner William Mendez, 48, on new counts of bribery, larceny, conspiracy and official misconduct related to additional businesses targeted in an alleged extortion scheme. Previous charges followed the pair’s arrest in July.
Pettus was also indicted on 29 counts related to an alleged attempt to fraudulently get a mortgage on a North Carolina home and an attempt to secure a debt consolidation loan with forged paperwork.
Mendez, also known as Jito Malania and Leocadio Molino Rios, was arraigned Wednesday on 11 felony bribery, larceny and conspiracy charges as well as two misdemeanor charges.
According to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Pettus and Mendez pocketed money from vulnerable Hispanic business owners and threatened to drive them out of business if they didn’t pay protection money.
Investigators say they intercepted phone calls and recorded Pettus ordering village employees and members of the police department to specifically target and ticket certain Hispanic-owned businesses.
“As an elected official, Pettus should be held to a high standard, and the widespread greed alleged in this indictment — taking approximately $80,000 in bribes — is a cause for concern,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas. “This investigation is ongoing and I encourage anyone with information to contact my office.”
Mendez, who speaks Spanish, allegedly aided and assisted Pettus by meeting with victim business owners and demanding money to avoid tickets, fines, license revocations, and other actions that could jeopardize their businesses.
In return, Pettus allegedly fast-tracked certain business permits and licenses for Mendez.
Pettus ceased to be deputy mayor of the Village of Hempstead on April 2, but he remains a trustee.
Following the investigation, the DA’s office accuses the pair of involvement with the following incidents:
- As deputy mayor, Pettus allegedly conducted frequent inspections of a business late at night and complained about the noise. The business owner allegedly paid Pettus fearing he would not renew the owner’s business license and would continue conducting inspections. Intercepted phone calls allegedly capture Pettus soliciting a birthday gift from the same owner — three weeks after his birthday.
- Another owner allegedly made extortion payments to Pettus through Mendez after he was told by police to close his business down at midnight. The victim allegedly delivered one extortion payment to Mendez’s restaurant with Pettus present.
- In another incident, Pettus and Mendez allegedly visited a business owner together and told him he was not allowed to be open beyond certain hours. Pettus then instructed the owner to talk to Mendez, who later demanded money from the business owner. After the business owner made one payment, intercepted phone calls between Mendez and Pettus allegedly confirm Mendez told Pettus about the payment, which was delivered to Pettus. Bank records reveal Pettus deposited $7,920 into his Santander Bank account the next day.
- Pettus is also charged with witness tampering. Following his arrest on July 31, 2018, Pettus is allegedly captured on video surveillance approaching a business owner and asking the victim to give a false statement to Pettus’s attorney, claiming the he never paid Pettus money.
In the new indictment, the DA’s office accuses Pettus of multiple instances of bank fraud.
- In November 2016, Pettus is said to have gone to a TD Bank branch in Hempstead to apply for a mortgage loan to purchase a home in North Carolina. Pettus allegedly submitted false pay stubs to increase his income in order to qualify for the loan and gave the bank a signed letter claiming he worked for an auto collision business, earning an income of $4,333 a month.
- In February 2017, the defendant also allegedly attempted to steal approximately $35,000 from Web Bank. Pettus allegedly provided a forged W2 income tax form that inflated his annual income nearly $100,000, while attempting to obtain a debt consolidation loan.
Pettus pleaded not guilty to all charges and is due back in court on Oct. 30.
If convicted of the top charge, the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years to 15 years in prison.