Nir Meir bought himself time when he filed for bankruptcy in early February, delaying a hearing in New York tied to a $19 million judgment.
Then he was taken away in handcuffs in Miami Beach the following week.
Now, new details have emerged about the arrest of the former HFZ Capital Group executive who was indicted by the Manhattan district attorney this week on charges of grand larceny and tax fraud.
At about 3:45 p.m. on Monday, a Miami Beach police officer called Meir’s estranged wife, Ranee Bartolacci, telling her to pick up their minor children from the apartment Meir was living in at 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach, divorce records obtained by The Real Deal show.
He was transported to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, where he was booked just before 7 p.m. He’ll likely be held there until his extradition to New York this month.
Back in New York, D.A. Alvin L. Bragg on Wednesday indicted Meir, the former second in command at the now-defunct HFZ, on charges of grand larceny and tax fraud for masterminding an $86 million fraud. The alleged scheme, which began in 2015, involved kickbacks and phony projects. HFZ Capital and Omnibuild executives were charged with grand larceny.
Two days before the indictment, Miami Beach police officers showed up to the 1 Hotel apartment with the fugitive warrant for Meir. Monday is one of the two fixed days a week that Meir had their children overnight. He secured 50 percent custody earlier in the divorce proceedings, according to court records.
Bartolacci is again seeking full-time custody of their three kids following the traumatic arrest, according to an emergency motion her attorney filed on Tuesday.
“Upon arrival, she found the children waiting with armed police officers, having just seen their father taken away in handcuffs,” the motion states. A police officer told her about the extradition and “that the husband would not be returning soon.” The officer suggested Bartolacci take the children’s belongings from the apartment.
On Wednesday, Meir waived his extradition rights. A hearing is set for Feb. 22, according to the court docket, though Meir may be taken to New York before then. It’s unclear who his attorney is in the criminal case.
Bartolacci’s law firm Rottenstreich Farley Bronstein Fisher Potter Hodas declined to comment.
“At this time I am focusing on my children,” Bartolacci said in a statement provided to TRD. “They have been through a lot and are my sole priority.”
Court records paint a picture of Meir’s personal and professional life continuing to crumble. On Feb. 1, Meir filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Florida, where he claimed he has $30 million in liabilities.
After the family was evicted from their luxury rental home in Miami Beach last year, Bartolacci moved in with her parents in Palm Beach County. She moved back to Miami after Meir convinced a judge he would cover expenses, including housing and insurance. Meir was on the hook for at least $5,000 a month, in addition to private school tuition, which he has not paid, according to court filings.
Bartolacci alleges in court filings that Meir lied to the court in August about being able to pay for those expenses. Meir was previously living at the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences in Surfside.
Meir moved to South Florida after HFZ’s collapse in 2020, leaving behind a trail of lawsuits and creditors. HFZ’s founder Ziel Feldman accused Meir of stealing tens of millions of dollars from HFZ.
Bartolacci alleged in her divorce filing last year that Meir intentionally kept her in the dark about legal troubles in which she was implicated, including a $13 million judgment. Meir denied the allegations at the time.
In recent months, Israeli businessman Yoav Harlap sought to impose sanctions on Meir for failing to comply with a judge’s orders, which included the possibility of jail time. Meir’s bankruptcy filing delayed a hearing in the Harlap case last week. Harlap has an $18.5 million judgment against Meir.
But until this week, the lawsuits have all been civil in nature.
The D.A. charged Omnibuild principal John Mingione, director of accounting Kevin Stewart, project executive Roy Galifi, former HFZ managing director of construction Anthony Marone and former HFZ senior project executive Louis Della-Peruta with grand larceny on Wednesday.
Prosecutors allege $86 million was stolen or misappropriated from investors, subcontractors, and New York City. The projects involved included The Xi, a luxury condo development on the High Line, according to the D.A.
A spokesperson for Omnibuild said the firm maintains its innocence. “The evidence will show that HFZ stole from Omnibuild as it did from many others. … We are a financially stable and resilient organization, with the unwavering support of our dedicated staff, key stakeholders, and longstanding clients.”
The defendants are due back in court in May.