A Long Island restaurateur admitted to conspiring with a former village official to solicit more than $150,000 in bribes through extortion from Hispanic-owned restaurants, the District Attorney’s Office announced.
Elmont resident William Mendez, age 50, pleaded guilty on Monday, March 15 to bribe receiving and other charges for his role in a scheme with former Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus to defraud other restauranteurs.
Specifically, Mendez pleaded guilty to:
- Two counts of bribe receiving;
- Two counts of grand larceny by means of extortion;
- Two counts of tampering with public records.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said that between February 2018 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 on three separate occasions.
Pettus threatened to have summonses issued that would jeopardize the restaurants’ business, cabaret, and liquor licenses, thereby forcing the restaurants out of business, Singas said.
Mendez, who is a local restaurant and bar owner in Hempstead, collected the payments from the victims and delivered them to Pettus.
Singas noted that Mendez served as an intermediary with Hispanic-owned restaurants, targeting them as part of the extortion scheme.
Pettus also used his position of power to fix tickets for an employee of Mendez. Pettus allegedly called then-Lt. Paul Johnson of the Hempstead Police Department 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.” Pettus also used Sgt. Joseph Savino to fix a pair of tickets that had been issued to Mendez.
The cases against Johnson, Savino, and a third co-conspirator are still pending.
“William Mendez tormented numerous Hispanic-owned businesses with threat of ticket blitzes and closures if they didn’t pay bribes to him and former Village of Hempstead Trustee Perry Pettus,” Singas said.
“Small, family-owned businesses are the backbone of our communities and these defendants exploited immigrant owners simply out of personal greed.”
Mendez is scheduled to appear back in court on Monday, May 17, when he is expected to receive a sentence of between one and four years in prison. Pettus had previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a term of between two and a third and seven years in prison in January.
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