Nir Meir, the 49-year-old former managing principal of HFZ Capital Group, was indicted for tax fraud, falsifying business records, and various counts of larceny after allegedly bilking investors, subcontractors, and the city through a years-long scheme.
Meir was arrested Monday night at the 1 Hotel in South Beach, where he had been renting an apartment, New York Magazine reported. He pleaded not guilty in front of a Florida judge and is now facing extradition to New York. Prosecutors allege that Meir and others falsified construction costs, lied to investors, and inflated invoices to make it appear like several projects were further along than they actually were.
“These indictments depict allegations of widespread fraud within the real estate industry primarily spearheaded by one man: Nir Meir,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a Wednesday statement.
Lawyers for HFZ Capital Group and Meir did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The charges are the latest legal hit against HFZ, the once prominent real estate development firm in Manhattan that collapsed around 2020. Prosecutors allege that when HFZ’s financial difficulties became public knowledge through the mountain of lawsuits, investors demanded to inspect its books. In response, Meir allegedly directed an accountant to “forge certain bank account statements to reflect millions of dollars in investor funds, when in fact, they were nearly empty.”
“In one instance, Meir instructed the accountant to inflate statements for an account to purport it contained more than $24.6 million, when, in fact, it contained $814,” prosecutors alleged.
Since its closure, Meir has faced multiple lawsuits while living in Miami Beach, including allegations from his former business partner that accused him in a lawsuit of creating a “Machiavellian scheme to enrich himself through theft, deception, and ‘charm,’” New York Magazine reported. The former partner, Ziel Feldman, alleged that Meir diverted millions of the company’s funds into his own pocket, stole a HFZ Capital-owned house in the Hamptons, and even hired someone to impersonate a Korean investor. Feldman’s lawsuit is seeking $688 million in damages from Meir.
Israeli businessman Yoav Harlap alleged in a 2022 lawsuit that instead of paying back a delinquent loan, Meir was allegedly living a high life in Miami. The lawsuit, reported by The Real Deal, claimed Meir lived in a $150,000-a-month Miami Beach estate with his wife, chartered yachts, and even bought over $1.5 million in gold bullion while hiding his assets.
Last week, Meir filed for bankruptcy in Florida in response to Harlap’s $18.5 million civil judgment, claiming he had just $50 in cash in his name. The Real Deal reported that Meir also reported having $30 million in liabilities.
Meir is also in the middle of a matrimonial battle with his wife, Ranee Bartolacci, who has previously claimed to be unaware of her estranged spouse's money troubles. Bartolacci, however, revealed in court filings that Meir was borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her father while battling creditors and partying.