Nir Meir settles contempt charges with HFZ investor, avoids jail

Creditor alleged Meir misled the court about the sale of his Aston Martin

A photo illustration of Nir Meir (Getty)
A photo illustration of Nir Meir (Getty)

Nir Meir has dodged another bullet.

Meir reached a settlement just a day before he was supposed to stand trial in New York on contempt charges brought by Israeli auto magnate Yoav Harlap.

Harlap’s attorney, Mark Hatch-Miller, was seeking to hold Meir in criminal or civil contempt for misleading the court on the sale of a blue convertible Aston Martin. Hatch-Miller, who has been seeking for a year and a half to collect on an $18.5 million judgment against Meir, argued he violated a restraining order by selling the car, which is worth several hundred thousand dollars.

“Meir purposefully lied about that car’s status to this court twice in two different false affidavits,” Hatch-Miller, of the law firm Susman Godfrey, alleged in a court filing.

Meir’s attorney deemed the motion “spin” and “manipulation.”

The settlement is confidential, but a court filing said the parties have until Nov. 29 to comply with the terms to resolve the contempt motion. If Meir complies, he will avoid the possibility of jail time.

Harlap was among a number of investors and lenders who sued Meir and HFZ Capital founder Ziel Feldman in the wake of the development firm’s collapse in 2020.

Harlap’s company, YH Lex Estates, lent $20 million to HFZ for an Upper East Side assemblage. The loan went into default and was never paid back. In April 2021, a New York state court judge allowed Harlap to go after Meir for the funds, but spared Feldman for the time being.

Harlap’s company sought to collect some of the judgment from the $43 million sale of Meir’s Hamptons estate to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. After the sale, Meir’s attorney argued that the home actually belonged to Meir’s wife, Ranee Bartolacci, and that the proceeds could not be touched by YH Lex Estates.

By this point Meir and his wife had already jetted to Miami Beach. YH Lex Estate’s attorneys found records that Meir was living large, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on fine wine, private jets and yacht charters, had wired $261,000 to a Qatari national and had bought more than $1.5 million in gold coins and bullion.

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The judge eventually allowed Harlap’s YH Lex Estates to go after Bartolacci’s assets, in addition to those of Meir and Feldman, including proceeds from the Hamptons sale. Still, the investor has struggled to collect.

In this case, YH Lex Estates was seeking possession of Meir’s Aston Martin, which can fetch upwards of $300,000. The entity asked the court to prevent Meir from selling or moving assets.

Meir’s counsel said this was not a problem because his client still owned it. ​​Except that Meir had already unloaded the exotic vehicle, according to Hatch-Miller.

The Aston Martin had been sold in November 2021 to a car collector named Bruce Canepa, something discovered through third-party discovery. Meir’s counsel later claimed in a filing that Meir had sold the car in June 2021.

Meir’s counsel also said the car had been transferred to Meir’s friend Nino Cohen in November 2020 prior to the judge’s order. Meir confirmed the transfer in an affidavit and said the car was security for loans he got from Cohen that remained outstanding. The two then reached an agreement to sell the car, and Meir’s wife, Bartolacci, repaid Cohen when the car sold for $180,000.

Hatch-Miller argued Meir’s latest claims only confirmed his motion for contempt.

“Meir’s conduct is an affront to the authority of this court and all New York courts,” the attorney wrote.

While YH Lex Estates seeks to collect more of the judgment from Meir, the company is suing Meir’s former lawyers — Larry Hutcher, Peter Ripin and their law firm, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron — for legal malpractice.

YH Lex Estates alleges that the attorneys falsely told the court that millions of dollars from the sale of Meir’s mansion were “not going anywhere.”

Hutcher called the allegations totally without merit. Neither Meir’s attorney nor Hatch-Miller returned requests for comment.