Developer Who Amassed $10B Condo Portfolio Indicted In Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme
UPDATE, FEB. 7, 6 P.M. ET: The story has been updated to reflect that Nir Meir and others involved in the development of The XI have been indicted.
New York developer Nir Meir, who fled to Miami after his company collapsed, was arrested in South Beach Monday on an out-of-state warrant.
Meir, a former executive at HFZ Capital Group, was arrested at the 1 Hotel South Beach and will be extradited to New York where he was charged Wednesday in connection to an alleged multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.
Meir had been living at the hotel for the past few years, Crain’s New York Business reported. He left New York as lawsuits mounted and creditors circled after HFZ collapsed and Meir faced accusations that he had diverted millions of dollars from the firm to his personal accounts.
Meir was charged Wednesday with grand larceny and tax fraud, The Real Deal reported. He waived extradition in Miami and is set to appear in a New York court later this month.
The arrest comes less than a week after Meir filed for bankruptcy in Florida, with The Real Deal reporting he claimed to have $50 to his name, no income and $30M in liabilities.
In a divorce case playing out in Miami court, Meir’s wife, Ranee Bartolacci, claimed he has spent the last few years partying and borrowing money from her father while Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg built his case, TRD reported.
HFZ Capital was once among the top players in New York City real estate, where the firm built and acquired thousands of luxury condos, amassing a $10B portfolio by 2019.
HFZ’s fortunes began to turn after it embarked on the construction of a pair of condo towers called The XI on a Manhattan site at 500 W. 18th St. The firm had paid $870M for the site. HFZ stopped paying contractors on the site in late 2019, and the firm had been picked apart by foreclosures and lawsuits by 2022, according to Curbed, which first reported Meir’s arrest.
Bragg’s case is expected to extend to at least 10 people and businesses associated with the development of The XI, sources told The New York Times.
The district attorney Wednesday also charged two former HFZ Capital Group employees, former Managing Director Anthony Marone and Senior Project Executive Louis Della-Peruta, and three executives at Omnibuild, which had been the contractor on the condo project, The Real Deal reported. The employees and the firms they worked for face charges of grand larceny.
The Omnibuild employees indicted were principal John Mingione, Director of Accounting Kevin Stewart and Project Executive Roy Galifi.
The district attorney alleges that the defendants conspired to steal from investors by falsifying construction costs from June 2019 through September 2020. Omnibuild left The XI project in 2020, claiming HFZ owed it more than $100M.
Josh Vlasto, a spokesperson for Omnibuild, told the NYT before the indictment was public that the company and its executives were innocent, saying that “the evidence will show that HFZ stole from Omnibuild as it did from many others.”
Charles Clayman, a lawyer for HFZ, told the NYT the firm wouldn't comment until it saw the indictments. The district attorney’s office declined to provide a statement to the NYT. Meir’s attorney didn’t respond to multiple publications seeking comment.
The XI condo towers were sold in a foreclosure auction while still under construction in late 2021 to Witkoff Group and Access Industries, which renamed it One High Line and completed the project last year. In 2021, HFZ lost control of four Manhattan developments to CIM Group, the lender on the properties.
Ziel Feldman, Meir’s partner at HFZ, filed a lawsuit that year, alleging Meir transferred $5M in HFZ funds to himself between 2017 and 2020 and took more than $11M in credit card reimbursements from the firm for money he spent on wine.
Feldman wasn't charged in the indictment Wednesday.
Feldman's suit says Meir forged documents to take ownership of a $45M home in the Hamptons owned by HFZ and took up residence in an HFZ-owned apartment worth $13M without paying rent.
“Meir, in effect, had been using HFZ as his own personal piggy-bank,” attorneys for Feldman wrote.