Nir Meir’s wife breaks her silence

Ranee Bartolacci levels accusations against former HFZ principal

Inside Ex-HFZ Developer Nir Meir’s Divorce
Nir Meir and Ranee Bartolacci (Getty, HFZ)

Nir Meir has been accused of some wild things, from faking wire transfers to hiring someone to impersonate a Korean investor.

But the latest allegations against the former HFZ Capital principal are perhaps the most dramatic, and come from the person who knows him best: his estranged wife, Ranee Bartolacci.

She alleges in court filings that while Meir was battling creditors, he was drinking, partying, borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from her father, and being verbally abusive. Texts and voicemails in the filings portray Meir digging himself into an increasingly deep hole as debts and legal issues mounted.

Bartolacci is seeking a divorce from Meir and trying to extricate herself from the legal problems that consumed him in the wake of HFZ’s failed projects. Meir, through his attorneys, has denied her claims.

Her most significant one is that Meir and her former lawyer kept her in the dark about her legal troubles, notably a $13 million judgment against her and a court holding her in contempt.

“By the time this is over, you[r] daughter will not have a pot to piss in.”
Nir Meir to his father-in-law

The judgment and contempt order stem from Israeli businessman Yoav Harlap’s quest to recoup $18.5 million he lent HFZ for an Upper East Side development that went bust. When HFZ collapsed, a judge allowed Harlap to go after Meir and his former partner Ziel Feldman for the debt. Harlap was eventually allowed to pursue Bartolacci, but has not had much luck collecting.

A few months ago, the same judge issued contempt orders against Meir and Bartolacci for moving money from restricted accounts.

But the judge, Joel Cohen of New York State Supreme Court, has since found some of Bartolacci’s arguments credible. He vacated the contempt order against her, describing her filings as “jarring” during a recent hearing.

Meir denies that Bartolacci was out of the loop. “Ranee knew what was going on, and now is trying to throw Nir under the bus to save herself,” said Meir’s lawyer, Jonathan Davidoff.

The judge, however, held Meir — but not his wife — in contempt a second time for continuing to improperly move money from accounts.

Exile in style 

Meir has also been sued by Feldman, who blames his ex-partner for the company’s downfall. Among Feldman’s claims was that Meir once hired someone with a Korean accent to convince a concerned investor that a fake $100 million Korean investment was real. Meir denied the allegations, asserting that Feldman knew what was happening in his own company.

After being terminated from HFZ in late 2020, Meir moved his family to a $135,000-per-month rental in Miami Beach. The lease was in Bartolacci’s name.

Meir lived large in Miami. Lawsuits accuse him of splurging on fine wine, buying $1.5 million worth of gold, chartering private jets and yachts and staying at the Four Seasons. Harlap’s lawyer alleges Meir spent $6,000 in one month at the Gold Rush Cabaret, a strip club in Miami.

Meir’s lawyers have claimed the money was coming from his wife.

At one point, the couple’s landlord sued Bartolacci, alleging she made illegal renovations. Bartolacci countersued and the two sides settled, but Massa briefly evicted them early this year.

One of Bartolacci’s college friends, Tracie Clabaugh, was visiting when the eviction occurred. In a dramatic scene, police surrounded the property. Clabaugh, a real estate attorney, said she tried to get more information out of Meir, but he talked in circles. She then started talking to Bartolacci to figure out what was going on.

“I told her something was not right,” Clabaugh said in a court filing. “Nothing made sense.”

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“Start selling shit”

After the eviction, Bartolacci moved to her parents’ house in Jupiter, Florida. Claubaugh started to dig into Meir’s legal issues and discovered a judgment and a contempt order against Bartolacci.

“Ranee and her father were devastated when I went through the transcript with them,” Clabaugh said.

Inside Ex-HFZ Developer Nir Meir’s Divorce
Nir Mier’s texts to Bartolacci’s father

Meir’s volatile behavior was on display in text messages filed in court: He would plead with her to call his attorneys, lash out and then apologize.

Things only got worse when Bartolacci filed for divorce in Palm Beach County. Meir texted Bartolacci’s father in June that he would “make it my life’s mission to make you guys broke” and vowed, “By the time this is over you[r] daughter will not have a pot to piss in…”

The same day, he texted Bartolacci, “Tell your dad to start selling shit as you guys will need every penny to get you out of this.”

In the divorce filing, Bartolacci alleged Meir owes her father $800,000 and is staying at expensive hotels and apartments while pleading poverty and refusing to pay child support.

Meir, who got the case relocated to Miami, claimed that Bartolacci moved the children to Palm Beach without his knowledge.

Attorney accused

Bartolacci alleges that her attorney at the time, Pankaj Malik, never informed her about the court orders and was acting solely in Meir’s interest.Emails describing major legal events did exclude Bartolacci. The messages were between only Malik and Meir, according to documents filed in the New York lawsuit.

In May, Bartolacci sent Malik a letter accusing the lawyer of misconduct and said she was not made aware of the contempt order. Malik responded that she only communicated with Meir and that Bartolacci appointed Meir as her agent.

Malik declined to comment.

When The Real Deal reached out to Bartolacci for comment about the contempt order, Malik sent TRD a cease-and-desist letter, threatening legal action if all inquiries about the lawsuit did not go to her office.

Meir claims his wife buried her head in the sand, allowing him to handle her legal matters — and is now attempting to blame everything on him.

So far, the judge is not buying Meir’s claims of victimhood. In April, Cohen issued a contempt order against him for transferring $603,500 into his wife’s checking account from a company that was supposed to be restricted.

During the hearing, the judge referred to Meir’s actions as a “shell game” — an effort to hide assets. Meir has yet to make the payments, according to court records, which could lead to his being incarcerated.

Last week, Cohen ruled that Meir again violated court orders by moving $1 million into accounts that were supposed to be restrained. At a hearing, Cohen deemed Meir’s arguments not credible.

“There is no question in my mind that Mr. Meir was behind all of the moving around of these assets,” Cohen said. “It’s really, in the end, not that hard to figure out.”

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