A former elected official on Long Island will spend years behind bars after admitting to extorting business owners, accepting bribes, submitting false paystubs to obtain a mortgage and ticket-fixing, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced.
Former Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus was sentenced to a term of between two and a third years to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to a host of charges accusing him of using his position and power for personal gain.
Specifically, Pettus pleaded guilty to:
- Two counts of Bribe receiving;
- Five counts of grand larceny;
- Attempted grand larceny;
- Two counts of tampering with public records;
- Falsifying business records;
- Three counts of conspiracy;
- Official misconduct;
- Tampering with a witness.
According to Singas, between February and May 2018, Pettus used his position and authority as a deputy mayor and trustee of the village to solicit more than $50,000 in bribes from Hempstead restauranteurs by threatening to have summonses issued that would jeopardize the restaurants’ business, wine and liquor licenses, which would force the restaurants out of business.
From June 2017 through September 2018, Pettus also admitted to using his position to extort bribes from other restaurants to the tune of $100,000. Singas said that it was alleged that Pettus and an associate, William Mendez, a local restaurant and bar owner in Hempstead, targeted Hispanic-owned businesses as part of their extortion scheme.
In November 2016, Pettus attempted to obtain a mortgage from TD Bank by lying about his annual income and submitting forged paystubs on the application. He also used his power to fix tickets for one of Mendez’s employees.
According to Singas, Pettus called former Hempstead Police Lt. Paul Johnson on the same day, described the tickets and told Johnson he would stop by the police department and show him the ticket numbers on his phone. Johnson later allegedly told Pettus that the tickets would be fixed and Pettus then called Mendez to say, “They’re done. You don’t have to worry.”
An indictment also alleged that from April 13 through April 16 last year, Pettus again asked a police sergeant in Hempstead to fix tickets as a favor, which included the disposal of two parking tickets issued to Mendez and a traffic summons and complaint that was issued to one of his employees.
Singas said that the indictment also charged Pettus with receiving a cash bribe wrapped in a newspaper, allegedly from a Hempstead police lieutenant, in exchange for voting to promote him to the deputy chief of the department in June last year.
“Perry Pettus’s corrupting influence infected virtually every aspect of government in the Village of Hempstead,” Singas said. “He abused his position to shake down businesses and solicit bribes and exploited his authority over the Hempstead Police Department to obtain favorable treatment for friends and to punish enemies.
"With today’s sentence, a disturbing chapter in the Village’s history has ended and I renew my call for Village officials take comprehensive steps to prevent this kind of corruption and abuse in the future.”
The cases against Mendez and the police officials are still pending, the DA noted.
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