DA: Hempstead Village trustee, associate extorted Hispanic-owned businesses

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Village of Hempstead Board Trustee Perry Pettus and his alleged associate William Mendez were arrested Tuesday on public corruption charges.

Prosecutors say Pettus, 62, threatened Hispanic-owned local businesses with “summons, fines and operating restrictions that would drive them out of business, unless they paid him tens of thousands in bribes through his associate and intermediary, William Mendez.”

District Attorney Madeline Singas called the allegations “despicable” and asked anyone who may have been a victim or a witness to the alleged crimes to contact the Public Corruption Bureau at 516-571-2100.

Pettus is a former deputy mayor of the Village of Hempstead and the owner of Hubs Auto Care. Mendez is a restaurant and bar owner in the village. The investigation into Pettus began at the beginning of this year after the DA’s office says it received credible information about alleged bribery and extortion.

According to prosecutors, Mendez, who speaks Spanish, allegedly aided and assisted Pettus by meeting with business owners and demanding money to avoid tickets, fines, license revocations and other actions that could jeopardize their businesses.

In return, Pettus allegedly helped Mendez with business permits and licenses, and helped him increase the occupancy of one his restaurants, El Pacifico.

The DA’s office also says that Pettus disclosed confidential police investigation information to Mendez on more than one occasion to benefit Mendez. Officials say Mendez received more than $25,000 in bribe money from Village of Hempstead business owners between February and May 2018.

The DA says Mendez was observed meeting with Pettus at various locations including homes, parking lots, business and vehicles.

“Pettus and Mendez allegedly discussed payments in coded language and specifically used the word ‘cookies’ to refer to money,” according to a DA news release.

In one intercepted call, Pettus allegedly told Mendez he would be "set for life" if Pettus became the next Hempstead mayor.

Prosecutors say Pettus was also heard on a wiretap discussing ordering village employees, including police officers, to target certain businesses.

News 12 reached out to the mayor’s office and the village police department for comment, but has not heard back.

Perry Pettus was arraigned and charged with bribe receiving, six counts of official misconduct, grand larceny, attempted grand larceny and conspiracy. Mendez was also arraigned and faces similar charges. They both pleaded not guilty.

Bail was set at $10,000 bond or cash for Mendez. Pettus was released on his own recognizance. They are due back in court on Sept. 5.

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