Nicolas De-Meyer was supposed to appear in federal court in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon.
After spending 14 months flying all over the world, from Rome to Rio de Janeiro, he had landed at Los Angeles International Airport in January and was arrested as soon as he made it off the plane. The 41-year-old had previously spent eight years working as a personal assistant to then-Goldman Sachs President David M. Solomon, now the company’s CEO. During that time, federal prosecutors allege, he stole more than 500 bottles of rare vintage wine, valued at more than $1.2 million, from the executive’s wine cellar in the Hamptons. On Tuesday, the New York Post reported, De-Meyer was expected to plead guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property and faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
But by 2:30 p.m., when the hearing was scheduled to begin, he still hadn’t walked through the courthouse’s heavy doors.
His attorney took a phone call, looking upset, the New York Post reported. Then, she disappeared into a closed-door meeting with the judge and a federal prosecutor. When they walked out, the judge announced that the hearing had been canceled. He gave no explanation.
At 2:38 p.m., police responded to a call on the Upper East Side. A man had jumped off the 33rd floor of the Carlyle Hotel, an art deco monument to New York City wealth that overlooks Madison Avenue. When officers arrived, the man was unresponsive. EMTs pronounced him dead at the scene.
On Tuesday night, the New York Police Department confirmed the man’s identity: It was De-Meyer.
“Mary and I are deeply saddened to hear that Nicolas took his own life,” Solomon, who took over as CEO of Goldman Sachs this month, said in a statement to the media. “He was close to our family for several years, and we are all heartbroken to hear of his tragic end.”
The address that police listed for De-Meyer matches a prewar doorman building just south of Central Park. But court records indicate that before his death, he had been declared indigent and was staying with his mother in Findlay, Ohio, the city south of Toledo where he grew up. Most people in Findlay, a small industrial city of about 41,000, work either at the Whirlpool dishwasher manufacturing plant, Cooper Tire & Rubber or the offices of Marathon Petroleum. It was a place that De-Meyer, whose 1995 yearbook entry noted that he dreamed of one day owning an art gallery, left as soon as he got the chance.
After graduating from high school, De-Meyer moved to Upstate New York and attended Vassar College, where he studied art history. He didn’t say much about his past, and his former classmates told the Weekly Standard that based on his clothing and his mannerisms, they had assumed that he was just another wealthy kid from New York City.
“He was mysterious in some ways,” a classmate, Kelly Williams, told the Weekly Standard. “He was always really well dressed, impeccably dressed, always put together.”
At some point, he changed his name. Nicolas De-Meyer, as he’s named in the criminal indictment, was Nickolas Meyer in his high school yearbook, a slim, attractive teenager with curly hair and a broad smile.
While it’s unclear what De-Meyer did for almost a decade after graduating from Vassar in 1999, he began working as a personal assistant for Solomon, who was then the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, in 2008. One of his responsibilities was receiving shipments of wine at Solomon’s Manhattan apartment and transporting them to the wine cellar at the executive’s East Hampton, N.Y., estate, federal prosecutors wrote in their indictment.
The thefts began sometime around 2014, prosecutors said. De-Meyer had met a North Carolina-based wine dealer online and began selling him bottles from Solomon’s collection. He called himself “Mark Miller,” the name of a celebrated New York vintner.
By 2016, De-Meyer had allegedly stolen hundreds of bottles of wine, including seven bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, which Solomon had initially purchased for $133,650.
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, prosecutors wrote, is “among the best, most expensive, and rarest wines in the world.”
It ended up being De-Meyer’s undoing. A wine dealer in Napa Valley who bought the pinot noir from “Mark Miller” in October 2016 began to suspect that it might have been stolen, prosecutors said at a February bail hearing. Because Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is so rare, the dealer was able to use the wine’s label to trace its origin and locate the broker who had originally sold it to Solomon.
Solomon confirmed that the wine had been stolen from him, and police in East Hampton began investigating the theft. On Nov. 7, 2016, De-Meyer let them into the wine cellar to look around, prosecutors said. In an offhand remark, one of the detectives told De-Meyer that it would be easy to solve the crime, because they needed only to trace where the wine had come from.
The next day, De-Meyer contacted Solomon’s wife, Mary, saying that he was upset and needed to talk to her. According to prosecutors, the three met at the Greenwich Hotel, and De-Meyer confessed to stealing the wine. They agreed to meet again the following morning, but De-Meyer never showed up. An hour and a half after leaving the meeting, he had boarded an Alitalia flight from JFK to Rome, using his American Express card to pay for the $5,300 ticket.
A week later, he called Mary Solomon again. This time, she was recording.
“He said he was scared, and he couldn’t go to prison. That’s why he left,” Justin Rodriguez, assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, told the judge at February’s bail hearing.
For 14 months, De-Meyer wandered the globe as police continued to investigate exactly how much wine had gone missing from the Solomons’ Hamptons wine cellar. Tracking his ATM withdrawals, investigators located him making stops in Italy, Morocco, Brazil, Argentina and Switzerland.
Meanwhile, his money seemed to be running out. De-Meyer’s mother, who runs a self-storage business, was depositing thousands of dollars at a time in his bank account through money orders purchased at a Kroger’s in Findlay, prosecutors said at the bail hearing. She also contacted Solomon and offered to try to pay him back, said Sabrina Shroff, De-Meyer’s court-appointed attorney.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s not like I’m going to starve or not have lunch,’ ” Shroff told the judge in February. (A spokesperson for Solomon denied that the conversation had taken place and said that De-Meyer’s mother had never contacted Solomon directly.)
De-Meyer had been unsuccessfully trying to find work in Rome, where he had lived before, Shroff said. Then, on Jan. 16, he flew to Los Angeles. An ex-boyfriend there was going to help him get a job at an art gallery, he said at his bail hearing, but De-Meyer never made it past security.
Instead, for two months, De-Meyer was shuffled from jail to jail, moving from Los Angeles to Oklahoma City to Manhattan before being released on bond in March and sent back home to Findlay with a GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet. His mother put up her home as collateral for the $1 million bond. The judge ordered U.S. Marshals Service to cover the cost of his travel for court appearances, as he couldn’t afford to get to New York from Ohio on his own. At home, the news had made him something of a folk hero, a family friend told the Weekly Standard: “Here’s this small-town kid, from flyover country, he goes into the big city and snookers the big-time guy.”
Then, this week, De-Meyer walked into the marble lobby of the Carlyle Hotel, directly across Central Park from the $24 million apartment where he had worked as an assistant. Hotel employees told the New York Daily News that nothing about him seemed unusual.
“He just looked like he had money,” one said.
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