At 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 41-year-old Nicolas De-Meyer was due in Manhattan federal court to plead guilty to stealing $1.2 million in wine while employed as personal assistant to the CEO-in-waiting of Goldman Sachs.
He was instead in room 3307 at the Carlyle Hotel, speaking on the phone to his sister.
“I can't go to jail,” he told her, according to a police official.
The sister immediately called the police to say he might take his life, but by then De-Meyer had leapt out a window of his room of the 33rd floor. He landed on the terrace to room 1515.
The police responded at 2:38 p.m. They were removing his body from the terrace while his defense attorney, Sabrina Shroff, was waiting downtown with prosecutors in Judge Paul Gardephen’s courtroom. The reason why De-Meyer failed to show was apparently what caused them all to confer privately in the judge’s chambers. They left without comment.
In the court file is an order by the judge granting a defense request for the government to pay De-Meyer’s way to New York from Findlay, Ohio, where he had been living with family while the case progressed. He had been declared indigent, officially too broke to fly in to plead guilty to thefts that included seven bottles of Domainee de la Romanee-Conti, or DRC, for which Goldman Sachs co-president David Solomon had paid $133,450.
“Among the best, most expensive, rarest wines in the world,” the prosecution had noted in court documents.
De-Meyer’s stealing might have gone undetected and he might still be pilfering lesser vintages had he been able to resist taking the seven exceedingly pricey bottles. He sold them to a dealer he found online called Wine Liquidators, which then put them up for sale.
“So in October of 2016 a Napa Valley wine dealer purchased seven bottles of particularly rare Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wine through Wine Liquidators, the dealer that the defendant was selling the victim’s wine to,” a prosecutor said during a hearing.
“The Napa Valley dealer was able to determine, based on the label, because the wine is so rare, essentially who had imported and distributed the wine, and he was able to trace that back to the victim, and he suspected that it might be stolen. He contacted the victim’s wine broker, and he confirmed that they were, in fact, stolen.”
The victim being Solomon, whose wine cellar is in an Easthampton home. He contacted the authorities and a detective went to the residence.
De-Meyer was there, as his duties at the time included accepting delivery of rare wines to Solomon’s Manhattan apartment and transporting them to be stored in Easthampton. De-Meyer gave the detective access to the wine cellar in accordance with instructions from his apparently still trusting boss.
“At that time the detective made some sort of offhand comment to the defendant about how easy it was going to be to solve this crime because all they had to do was trace back where the wine came from,” a prosecutor would later say in court. “Well, that must have really caused [De-Meyer] to panic.”
The next day, Nov. 8, De-Mayer called Solomon’s wife, Mary Solomon.
“He was very upset and said he needed to talk to her,” a prosecutor later reported.
The Solomons agreed to meet with De-Meyer at the Greenwich Hotel in Lower Manhattan.
“There, the defendant confessed to stealing from the victim the seven bottles of wine,” the prosecutor would recount. “He said that he had sold the wine to a wine dealer called Wine Liquidators which he found online.”
De-Meyer pledged to make financial restitution.
“The parties all agreed that they would meet up the next morning,” the prosecutor said.
But De-Meyer never showed.
“Historical cell site data on the defendant’s phone…shows him pinging off cell towers near the Greenwich Hotel at about 9:15 p.m. on the night he met with the victim and his wife,” the prosecutor later reported. “An hour and a half later his phone is pinging off cell towers at JFK.”
“He did not want to go to jail. And he confirmed that in a call to the victim’s wife a few days later.”
The prosecutor continued, “According to travel information, he was on an Alitalia flight from JFK to Rome that night, November 8, the night of the meeting, scheduled to depart at 10:25 p.m. According to his Amex records, the defendant uses American Express to buy the ticket that day for $5,300.
The prosecutor added, “Cost was not a concern. Getting out of the country was a concern.”
When he was supposed to be meeting with the Solomon, De-Meyer was withdrawing money from ATM machine at Rome airport.
“He did not want to go to jail,” the prosecutor would later say. “And he confirmed that in a call to the victim’s wife a few days later.”
On Nov. 17, De-Mayer telephoned Mary Solomon “who had the presence of mind to put it on speakerphone and video record it,” the prosecutor would say.
“During that call, he, again, confessed to stealing the seven bottles of wine. He said he was scared he was going to be arrested.”
The prosecutor continued, “He added that he left because the victim couldn't promise that he wouldn't be prosecuted or go to prison and that the FBI was involved. He said he was scared, and he couldn't go to prison.”
The prosecutor said that De-Meyer’s records “confirm extensive travel that had to have been financed by a significant amount of money.”
The prosecutor noted, “From November of 2016 to January of 2017, he’s in Rome and Capri. In January of 2017, Casablanca, Marrakesh. January and February of 2017, Rome. February and March, Rio and Ipanema. March and April, Buenos Aires, back to Rio. April to September, Rome, Marrakesh, Capri, Italy, bouncing back and forth. A Brazilian visa, more travel to Marrakesh in October, travel to Zurich, travel to Rome.”
“He said he was scared, and he couldn't go to prison.”
In the meantime, there had been an inventory of Solomon’s wine collection.
“It was discovered that the defendant had actually been stealing and selling the victim’s wine for years,” the prosecutor said “He’d stolen over 500 bottles of wine worth more than $1.2 million.”
After 14 months, on Jan. 16 of this year, De-Meyer returned to the United States via Los Angeles. He was arrested at the airport.
“Why he came back I don’t know,” the prosecutor said. “Maybe he thought the Government gave up looking for him.”
The prosecution requested that De-Meyer be remanded due to a “serious risk defendant will flee.”
He remained in custody and his feelings regarding jail could not have been improved as he was transferred from a facility in Los Angeles to one in Oklahoma and finally to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
At a bail hearing on Feb. 27, De-Meyer’s attorney, Shroff, who works for the federal defenders office in Manhattan, told the judge that her client had called his mother in Ohio before returning to America and asked her to seek legal counsel out there on the chance he could straighten out his situation.
Shroff also told the judge that De-Meyer had been unable to get a job in any of the far flung places where he traveled and he had finally flown to L.A. with the hope that somebody he knew could him find employment.
“He had a job interview set up in L.A.?” the judge asked. “I don’t think I heard that before.”
De-Meyer spoke up from the defense table.
“No, no interview,” he told the judge. “I just had a connection through my ex-boyfriend.”
The prosecutors charged that De-Meyer used members of his family “to finance his flight.” Shroff replied that De-Meyer’s mother, Jane Rettig, had simply sent him some of her own funds when he was running short.
“There’s nothing nefarious about buying a money order from a Kroger’s in Findlay, Ohio,” Shroff noted.
De-Meyer’s mother and sister had flown in for the bail hearing. The mother agreed to put up her house and whatever cash she had for bail. De-Meyer was released on $1 million personal bond, secured by $200,000 cash and his mother’s home.
Over the months that followed, De-Meyer resided with his family in Findlay, flying in for periodic hearings at government expense after he had been declared indigent. The last such arrangement was made for the hearing where he was to pled guilty. The judge’s latest order read:
“Upon a finding of indigence and in the interests of justice, it is hereby ORDERED that the United States Marshals Service furnish Nicolas De Meyer with funds to cover the cost of travel between Findlay, Ohio and New York, New York for Mr. De Meyer's upcoming court appearance on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm…and it is hereby further ORDERED that the aforesaid expenses shall be paid by the United States Marshals Service.”
Upon arriving in New York, the indigent Mr. De-Meyer checked into the pricey Carlyle Hotel. The hour when he was to be in court was at hand as he voiced over the phone to his sister the fear of jail that had initially sent him fleeing to Europe and South America.
But he now had no place to go. The moment approached when he would be declared a bail jumper and his mother stood to lose her home.
And he jumped.