UPDATED, 7 April 2021, 18:00: Ziel Feldman of HFZ Capital Group said that his former partner Nir Meir used the bank account of his development company as a “personal piggy bank” to finance his rich lifestyle.
In a lawsuit filed on April 6 in Suffolk County, HFZ accused Meira of stealing $ 15 million through fraudulent credit card payments and bank transfers. The suit claimed that Meir lived “high above his standards” on the HFZ dime and is demanding $ 43 million in damages. Meir’s lawyer described the allegations as a “desperate attempt at a last resort” to put pressure on Meir, saying the allegations were unfounded.
Meir allegedly used his position as a managing partner in now a committed company – and his control over his finances – to redirect money into his own pockets.
The suit said he transferred $ 5 million to HFZ’s bank account between 2017 and 2020. During this time, he also allegedly asked for a credit card refund totaling more than $ 11 million. Rather than legitimate business spending, the suit said Meir spent hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not millions – on “investment quality” wine. He also allegedly forged documents to gain ownership of $ 45 million property in Southampton, which HFZ claims to own.
“Meir’s looting of HFZ assets has accelerated in recent years,” the suit said. He was able to conceal his act “on the basis of his position in society, which he used aggressively to ensure the conformity of HFZ employees by promoting a culture of fear and repression by Meira if employees did not follow his instructions.”
“He’s trying to blame him like a scapegoat and we won’t tolerate it,” said Meir’s lawyer Larry Hutcher. He said Meir had paid more than $ 10 million in recent months to satisfy HFZ’s creditors. “We are out there, acting in good faith and trying to solve these problems.” He said Meir believed the HFZ owed him “more than $ 25 million” by participating in development agreements.
Until December, Meir was the managing director of HFZ. That month, Feldman took over day-to-day management of a development company. At the time, a statement from Meir said in a statement that he remained a “partner” in the company he and Feldman founded in 2005.
The HFZ did not state the reason for his departure at the time, but stated in the court proceedings that it was terminated when the extent of his “abuse for his personal benefit” was revealed.
In connection with the lawsuit, HFZ asked the court to suspend the lien on the property in Southampton to prevent Meir from selling the house or hiding the money from the sale. The deadline was due this week, the court filing said.
But in an affidavit filed on Wednesday, Meira’s lawyers opposed the request. “It is not based on anything other than speculation that the defendants intend to conceal the proceeds of the sale,” they said. On Wednesday, Hutcher confirmed that the property had been sold, but refused to share the purchase price or the identity of the buyer.
According to the complaint, Meir lived “rent-free” in a $ 13 million apartment on the Upper West Side, owned by HFZ. The suit said he also lived without rent in a house in Southampton that was bought off the market.
The creditor of HFZ Monroe Capital tried to do so catch Hamptons home, at 40 Meadow Lane, last year.
An entity linked to Monroe sued in December alleging that he owned the property, but Meir prevented him from taking over the property. Meir filed a lawsuit in January claiming he owned 95 percent of the assets, accusing Monroe and HFZ of conspiring to fraudulently transfer the assets to reduce Feldman’s debt. Monroe’s suit ended in March.
In a final suit, HFZ stated that it was not trying to stop the sale of the property, but argued that “equity and excess funds rightfully belong to HFZ.”
HFZ faces clearing throughout its portfolio after making big bets before the market turns around. The developer was killed by seizure and Litigation from creditors, including the CIM group, which confiscated control of four housing projects last month.
Feldman and his wife Helene are personally on the hook for many loans linked to HFZ projects. The largest HFZ project is the XI, apartment and hotel XI designed by Bjarke Ingels, which includes the entire city block along the High Line.
Neither Ziel nor Helene Feldman responded immediately to requests for comments.
Update: This story has been updated to include more details about the property of Southhampton.