Nir Meir, HFZ Capital and Omnibuild execs charged with grand larceny
Criminal case centers on HFZ’s former High Line project XI
The Manhattan district attorney charged Nir Meir, two former HFZ Capital Group colleagues and three Omnibuild executives in a scheme that netted tens of millions of dollars. Omnibuild was the contractor for HFZ’s biggest project, The XI, a luxury condo development on the High Line.
D.A. Alvin Bragg’s office announced the charges Wednesday as part of a criminal probe of Meir, HFZ Capital’s former day-to-day manager, and the company. Meir was arrested by the Miami-Dade police Monday night and is facing extradition to New York.
“These indictments depict allegations of widespread fraud within the real estate industry primarily spearheaded by one man: Nir Meir,” Bragg said in a statement.
The D.A. accused the Omnibuild executives — principal John Mingione, director of accounting Kevin Stewart and project executive Roy Galifi — of grand larceny.
HFZ Capital and Omnibuild were charged with grand larceny. The D.A. also charged former HFZ managing director of construction Anthony Marone and former HFZ senior project executive Louis Della-Peruta.
The defendants all pleaded not guilty Wednesday. Louis Della-Peruta was not at the hearing because of an attorney conflict. The rest of the defendants are due back in court in May.
Prosecutors alleged the real estate executives falsified construction costs from June 2019 until September 2020, according to the New York Times. Altogether, they said, the defendants stole about $86 million from HFZ investors, subcontractors and New York City. The amount represents a small fraction of the $2 billion project, but would be a significant haul for the accused.
“Even though Omnibuild is in the same indictment as HFZ, three counts of that indictment allege that HFZ stole from Omnibuild and others,” said a spokesperson for the contractor. “This is in addition to the three other indictments charging HFZ alone. We reiterate that Omnibuild is a victim of, and not acting in concert with, HFZ.”
Meir, who declared bankruptcy last week in response to a $19 million civil judgment against him, was arrested by the Miami-Dade police at the 1 Hotel South Beach on charges of grand larceny and tax fraud. Meir was set to appear in a courthouse in Miami on Wednesday. He waived his extradition and is set to appear in New York later this month.
Omnibuild is a major contractor in New York City. In 2018, it was ranked the fifth most active contractor in New York City by The Real Deal. Dozens of employees from Omnibuild attended Wednesday’s hearing to show support for the executives. After Mingione posted bail, a person in the crowd said, “Let’s go home, John.”
“The evidence will show that HFZ stole from Omnibuild as it did from many others,” said the Omnibuild spokesperson, Josh Vlasto. “We absolutely maintain our innocence and look forward to continuing to work with the DA to bring about this result as quickly as possible.”
The XI, with its twisting design and high-profile location, was one of New York’s most anticipated condo projects. But HFZ started to default on its bills around 2019 and soon most of its projects, including the XI, fell into foreclosure. Omnibuild filed a lien against HFZ in the summer of 2020, alleging $100 million in unpaid bills.
“We would have some type of payment arrangement to get the subs [subcontractors] back to work, but [HFZ] wouldn’t come through with it.” Mingione told TRD in 2021.
But HFZ claimed at the time that it had fired Omnibuild.
Dodging lawsuits and creditors, Meir has been living in South Florida following the collapse of HFZ, the New York-based development firm led by Ziel Feldman, in 2020. Feldman, who blamed HFZ’s demise on Meir, calling him “a very talented sociopath,” has accused Meir of stealing tens of millions of dollars from the company. Meir has denied wrongdoing.