Hempstead Village Trustee, Associate Accused Of Extorting From Restaurants

July 31, 2018 - 1:10 pm

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (WCBS 880) -- A grand jury on Tuesday indicted Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus on accusations of bribery and other charges.

Pettus, 62, was also charged with grand larceny, conspiracy, and official misconduct. Also charged was his associate, William Mendez, 47.

Both defendants were arraigned Thursday before Acting Nassau County Supreme Court Judge Patricia Harrington. Bail for Mendez was set at $10,000, while Pettus was released on his own recognizance.

After he was arraigned, Pettus walked out of court holding his baby grandchild, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported. He did not say a word.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas reported that her office began investigating Pettus – who is also a former deputy mayor of the Village of Hempstead and the owner of Hubs Auto Care – in the beginning of this year after receiving information about a bribery and extortion scheme.

Pettus is accused of using his authority and position as a deputy mayor and village trustee to solicit bribes from local restaurateurs, by threatening to issue tickets that would jeopardize their business, cabaret, and liquor licenses and force them to close down.

“These charges read like something out of a movie,” Singas said. “They met with victims and conducted their business in cars and in parking lots. They spoke in coded language, referring to cash as ‘cookies.’”

Pettus and Mendez, a local Hempstead restaurant and bar owner, allegedly targeted Hispanic-owned businesses, prosecutors said.

Mendez, who speaks Spanish, allegedly met with business owners and demanded bribes to avoid tickets, fines, license revocations, and other detrimental actions.

Mendez also allegedly had Pettus fast-track certain business permits and licenses for him. Using Hempstead village employees, Pettus allegedly helped Mendez increase the occupancy of one of his restaurants, El Pacifico, and also had village employees help Mendez with architectural plans for a new business.

Mendez also acquired a new restaurant and renovated others he owns since his affiliation with Pettus, prosecutors said. Pettus also allegedly gave Mendez confidential police investigation information for Mendez’s benefit, prosecutors said.

Mendez allegedly received more than $25,000 in bribes from Hempstead village business owners between February and May of this year.

Each time a bribe was paid, Mendez – who drives a red Range Rover – was spotted meeting Pettus at Pettus’ home and business, inside Pettus’ vehicle, and in parking lots, prosecutors said. In one instance, Mendez was allegedly seen getting into Pettus’ Dodge Durango with a package in his hands and leaving without the package, prosecutors said.

Pettus allegedly made cash deposits into various bank accounts after meeting with Mendez, prosecutors said.

Pettus ceased to be deputy mayor of the Village of Hempstead on April 2, but he is still a trustee.

Singas said prosecutors are looking at others in the village, including those within the police department, who may have helped with the corruptions scheme.

“We are very much looking into that,” Singas said. “This is still very much an ongoing investigation.”