By Dirk Nelson
Federal law enforcement officials in the Eastern District of New York are continuing to pull together information and records that will likely lead to additional charges being filed against Keith Raniere, the co-founder of the NXIVM. He is currently incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY – where, instead of being called by his self-proclaimed title of “Vanguard”, he is simply referred to as Federal Prisoner 57005-177. There may also be new charges being filed against various members of the cult.
But as the case against Raniere moves forward, it’s important not to overlook all the other people who enabled him to operate his criminal enterprise for almost 20 years. These people include various governmental officials in the Capital District – and a horde of attorneys all over the country who were willing to undertake unethical (and, in some cases, blatantly illegal) actions on his behalf.
To assist the federal officials in this effort, Frank Report will be posting a series of articles that are focused on these enablers. This first such article will focus on P. David Soares, District Attorney for Albany County – and one of the first law enforcement officials to become – by all appearances – part of the NXIVM criminal operation.
Soares has been DA in Albany County since January 1, 2005. Prior to that, he served as an Assistant District Attorney under then-Albany County DA Sol Greenberg.
Unlike most Albany-area public officials, Soares is not dependent on the local Democratic machine for his financial and political support. Instead, Soares relies on the backing of the ultra-liberal Working Families Party – a New York City-based political operation that has received heavy financial backing from numerous members of the Bronfman family over the years.
Shortly after taking office, Soares became personally enmeshed with the NXIVM cult. Prior to then, two of his sisters and a brother-in-law had reportedly been enrolled as active members in NXIVM.
Soares’ personal involvement began when he was approached by Clare Bronfman and her sister, Sara Bronfman Igtet, the wealthy Seagram’s heiresses. Between them, they have reportedly “loaned” or “invested” more than $200 million on behalf of Raniere since first becoming involved with the cult back in 2002.
The Bronfman sisters, accompanied by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger and former Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Richard Mays, met with Soares to encourage him to file criminal charges against Joe O’Hara, a local businessman and former NXIVM consultant who quit working for the cult when he learned that Raniere was illegally collecting personal information on Rick Ross and other “enemies” of the cult.
At the time they went to Soares, the Bronfmans – along with Pam Cafritz, Barbara Bouchey, and several other high-ranking members of NXIVM – were embroiled in a contentious civil lawsuit with O’Hara and were looking for some extra leverage against him.
Rather than simply agree to undertake an investigation of O’Hara – which would have been illegal in and of itself if it was done simply to advance the pending civil case against him – Soares took the extraordinary step of allowing a high-ranking member of the NXIVM cult and a long-time member of Raniere’s harem, to join his office as a “Legal Intern”. Although most such interns who work in a DA’s office are 2nd-year or 3rd-year law school students, this high ranking NXIVM member [who has since defected from the cult and who I shall identify only as “Linda”] was, in fact, a high-school drop-out.
While she worked in Soares’ office, Linda was given unfettered access to files and records concerning O’Hara – and her own “Xerox fob” to make copies of such documents. She was also allowed to draft subpoenas for additional documents and records concerning O’Hara’s business and personal finances.
In March 2007, an Albany County grand jury indicted O’Hara on a charge of alleged grand larceny. That charge was dismissed less than 90-days later by the presiding judge who found that the DA’s presentation to the grand jury was procedurally tainted and lacked sufficient proof.
But even though NXIVM and the Bronfman sisters were unable to sustain a criminal charge against O’Hara, they were still able to secure something beneficial by having Linda work in Soares’ office. That’s because Linda was able to make copies of various subpoenaed documents that were later introduced by the attorneys representing NXIVM and the Bronfmans in their civil lawsuit against O’Hara.
And, of course, Soares’ willingness to use his office on behalf of the NXIVM cult did not end with the ill-fated indictment of O’Hara back in 2007. To the contrary, Soares came back with a more expansive indictment for alleged “criminal computer trespass” in 2015 against O’Hara, Toni Natalie, John Tighe, and Barbara Bouchey.
The 2015 indictment claimed that the defendants had illegally accessed the server that hosted NXIVM’s website. But citing an unexplained “conflict-of-interest”, Soares chose to have this prosecution handled by Holly A. Trexler, one of his former Assistant DAs. (More on Trexler – and her service on behalf of NXIVM – in an upcoming post).
It was also stunningly ironic that one of the lawyers representing NXIVM in the computer trespass case – and actually the one who first suggested that charges could be brought in Albany County – was Mike McDermott, Holly Trexler’s old boss at the Albany County DA’s office.
Just picture this scene: Mike McDermott, having heard that the Saratoga County DA and the New York State Attorney General had decided not to pursue criminal computer trespass charges against anyone, decides that he’ll get his old boss, David Soares, to bring similar charges in Albany County – and to have his assistant, Holly Trexler, appointed as a Special DA to actually prosecute the case. Ya just can’t make this stuff up.
Except for Tighe, who pled guilty to the criminal computer trespass charge as part of a broader plea deal involving alleged child pornography, the 2015 case also resulted in the dismissal of all charges. This time, however, the problem stemmed from the fact that several of the complainants in the case – e.g., Raniere, Clare Bronfman, Steve Ose and Ben Meyers – had perjured themselves when they provided information about where the server in question was physically located. (Because the server was actually located in Saratoga County – which had refused to bring charges in the matter – Albany County lacked jurisdiction to bring any charges).
Hopefully, the federal prosecutors will find time to investigate if Soares and his ties to NXIVM, Raniere and the Bronfman sisters perverted justice in any way.
If so, Soares may be the first of Capital District enablers to be brought to justice for their role in aiding and abetting the Raniere/Bronfman crime machine.