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Prominent New York Developer Arrested on Charges Tied to Vast Fraud Scheme


A former executive at a prominent New York City development firm that collapsed amid an avalanche of investor lawsuits and foreclosures was arrested this week and is expected to be charged in connection with a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme, according to several people with knowledge of the case.

The developer, Nir Meir, was taken into custody on Monday at the 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami and was expected to be extradited to New York City on the charges, which were brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the people said.

Several other people and businesses were expected to be charged in a series of indictments brought by the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, as part of a sprawling web of suspected criminal conduct involving Mr. Meir’s former company, HFZ Capital Group.

Those expected to be charged include people involved with the construction firm Omnibuild, which worked on at least one major HFZ project, including a principal at the company, some of the people with knowledge of the matter said.

Some of the defendants in the case are scheduled to be arraigned as early as Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office declined to comment. A representative for Mr. Meir, whose arrest was first reported by Curbed, could not be reached for comment.

Charles E. Clayman, a lawyer for HFZ, said the company would not comment until it saw the indictments.

A spokesman for Omnibuild said in a statement that the company and the executives who are expected to be charged were innocent and cast them as a victims of HFZ.

“The evidence will show that HFZ stole from Omnibuild as it did from many others,” the spokesman, Josh Vlasto, said.

HFZ sought to become a major player in the New York City real estate market, building and acquiring thousands of luxury condominiums in Manhattan.

At the firm, Mr. Meir helped raise millions of dollars from investors, often wealthy foreigners. By 2019, the company managed more than $10 billion in properties, it said.

The company started to crumble after it began to develop its most ambitious project, the XI in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, a pair of twisting glass towers with high-end condos and a luxury hotel. HFZ spent $870 million for the development site, and construction started in 2016, led by Omnibuild.

But before it opened, investors and contractors accused HFZ of missing deadlines for payments and said it owed them millions of dollars. Omnibuild backed out of the project in 2020, claiming that HFZ owed the construction company more than $100 million.

One prominent investor in HFZ, Yoav Harlap of Israel, sued Mr. Meir in 2021, accusing him of refusing to return a nearly $20 million loan and moving around money in personal accounts to avoid repayment.

Mr. Meir, 49, filed for bankruptcy last week in Florida, where he moved after leaving HFZ in late 2020.

The XI project went into foreclosure in 2021, before it was completed, and it was bought by two other developers, who renamed it One High Line. It opened late last year. HFZ lost four other condo buildings in Manhattan in 2021 as well.

HFZ was founded in 2005 by Ziel Feldman, who was not expected to be charged in the scheme, according to people with knowledge of the case. His wife, Helene Feldman, said on Tuesday that the couple had no comment about Mr. Meir’s arrest.

In lawsuits against the firm, Mr. Feldman claimed he handed day-to-day management of HFZ to Mr. Meir and blamed him for misspending its money and causing its downfall.

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