Prominent New York City developer Nir Meir caught in massive $86M fraud scheme over years: Prosecutors
A former top figure at a once-prominent Big Apple developer and a slew of other real estate industry executives were indicted Wednesday on stealing more than $86 million in a years-long fraud scheme, Manhattan prosecutors said.
Nir Meir, 49, and the since-shuttered HFZ Capital Group where he once worked, allegedly defrauded millions of dollars from investors, subcontractors and the city of New York during his five years at the company, according to the indictment.
Two other former HFZ employees and three Omnibuild construction executives were also indicted on various counts of theft, conspiracy, falsifying business records, tax fraud and money laundering in a wide-ranging criminal investigation.
The case largely centers on the development of a luxury residential project in Manhattan called “XI,” prosecutors allege.
HFZ — founded by Zell Feldman in 2005 — hired Omnibuild in 2015 to build two mixed-use commercial and residential towers along the High Line in Chelsea, according to the indictment. Feldman has not been charged in this case.
Prosecutors allege that Meir directed project funds, totaling more than $253 million in four years, to be transferred to various LLCs controlled by HFZ — even though the trust assets were legally required to be used for the development.
Instead, assets were allegedly transferred to cover financial shortfalls on unrelated HFZ projects and, at times, to personal accounts controlled by HFZ executives, resulting in a shortfall of more than $37 million owed to Omnibuild and its subcontractors, As the indictment alleges.
In an attempt to plug the money shortfall and hide the true cost of the work, prosecutors allege Meir conspired with Omnibuild executives — John Mingione, 54; Roy Galifi, 62; and Kevin Stewart, 48 – and his HFZ colleagues, Anthony Marrone, 64; and Luis della Perrotta, 69, to inflate monthly bills.
After HFZ’s financial difficulties came to light due to a series of lawsuits and investors began asking questions about the company’s financial records, Meir then allegedly directed HFZ’s accountant to falsify bank statements to reflect millions of dollars in investor funds.
One statement was allegedly falsified to make it appear as if the account contained more than $24.6 million in funds when it contained only $814, according to prosecutors.
Project XI eventually entered foreclosure in 2021 following HFZ’s financial collapse amid a host of investor lawsuits and other foreclosures.
“These indictments depict allegations of widespread real estate fraud led primarily by one man: Nir Meir,” Manhattan District Attorney Bragg said.
“In total, we allege that these defendants’ conspiracies resulted in them receiving a total of $86 million stolen from investors, contractors and the City of New York. My office’s racketeering bureau focuses extensively on fraud in the construction and real estate sectors and will continue to root out people who rip off investors and corrupt the market.”
Meir, who was arrested in Miami Beach, Florida, late Monday, is now being extradited to New York.
All three Omnibuild executives, as well as the company, pleaded not guilty to the charges during their trial on Wednesday.
“The evidence will show that HFZ stole from Omnibuild as it did from many other companies. We fully maintain our innocence and look forward to continuing to work with the DA to achieve this outcome as quickly as possible,” a company spokesperson said.
HFZ and one of its executives, Marrone, have also pleaded not guilty. HFZ’s co-defendant, Della Perrotta, is expected to surrender Thursday morning and is still awaiting arraignment.