News NXIVM

A large group – not one individual – took NXIVM down! – but that battle is not over yet…

I think it’s important to point out that the ongoing takedown of the NXIVM sex-slaver cult – like most notable victories – was the result of the hard work and determination of numerous contributors; some big, some small; some known and some unknown.

Have I – and The Frank Report – been a part of this collaborative effort? Yes, I think so.  But I doubt my efforts alone would have generated enough attention to get the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York to open a full-scale investigation of NXIVM and its leaders.

People have been battling NXIVM for almost 20-years and without their work to build upon, nothing would have happened this year or maybe for many years to come.

In the early years, it was Raniere’s ex-girlfriend Toni Natalie [she was the first – the true pioneer of the anti-NXIVM movement]; cult deprogrammer Rick Ross; and former NXIVM consultant Joe O’Hara. 

There were also reporters who listened to their stories and wrote early media reports about the cult: e.g., Times Union reporters Jim Odato and Dennis Yusco, Metroland reporter Chet Hardin; New York Post reporter Jeane MacIntosh.  All helped shine a spotlight on Raniere – without which NXIVM probably would have grown by leaps and bounds and been much harder to stop.

It is also reasonable to mention the Forbes article, Cult of Personality, by Michael Freedman in 2003, that started it all, and Suzanna Andrews’ Vanity Fair piece in 2010 The Heiress and the Cult . And fair to also mention that the biggest, behind-the-scenes {and on the record] anti -NXIVM source and resource for both stories was Toni Natalie.

Another to take up arms against NXIVM was John Tighe, a blogger based in Saratoga Springs, NY, who got involved when he learned that the cult was trying to establish a new center in his hometown. Tighe brought a fiery, even vicious style to the battle and showed he was unafraid to say anything about Raniere and his followers. He also culled inside information from cult members who were willing to share details about some of the more nefarious goings on inside the cult. His work was important.

Another benchmark in the NXIVM War was the departure of the “NXIVM Nine”, a group of NXIVM women who were appalled to find out that the NXIVM cult leader, Keith Raniere, had been sleeping with members of the cult’s Executive Board and other students. Led by Susan Dones and Barbara Bouchey, this group included Shelia CoteyNina CowellKathy EthierEllen GibsonJan HinesAngela Ucci, and Kim Woolhouse.

Dones played a unique role after she left. She, representing herself, defeated a battery of NXIVM lawyers, making a fool of members James Del Negro and Clare Bronfman when she had a chance to cross-examine them – and showing that NXIVM emperor Raniere was not invincible.

Bouchey also played an important role as she gave a lesson in persistence. She faced a slew of lawsuits. Because of the onslaught of litigation, she was forced to file for bankruptcy. And she wound up representing herself in many cases. Along the way, Raniere got her indicted through Bronfman perjury and nearly destroyed her life through the stress of being criminally indicted and by the ruthless, endless, civil litigation she faced.

In the end, Bouchey lost no cases, but the cost was tremendous financially and personally. Through it all, she never caved. She had chances to settle but she wouldn’t. Her full story has yet to be told.

Then there was the 2012 expose in the Albany Times Union. It was an incredible series written by Odato [who wound up losing his job thanks to NXIVM]. The series brought out more brave women: Gina Melita, Heidi Hutchinson and Rhiannon – all victims or witnesses to Raniere’s pedophilia. [Once again, it was Toni Natalie who enrolled these women and brought them forward to speak on the record]. It took a lot of courage for these women – who had been abused by Raniere as teens to come forward at a time when Raniere’s power was at its height.  One suspects it had a marvelous deterrent effect for untold numbers of future potential enrollees who never joined because these women spoke up.

In addition to the Odato series, over the years, there were a lot of reporters and media outlets that wrote about NXIVM, creating a cumulative effect. Had their work not been published, who knows how many more might have joined NXIVM? Thankfully, there was a body of information on the internet available for cautious people to review before joining.

Along the way, I became another of Raniere’s enemies – and enmeshed in the NXIVM War. Like many others before me, I was not given an option: it was either take them down or be taken down.

Not everyone who has been attacked by the NXIVM litigation machine has chosen to fight back. Some, like Doug Rutnik, the father of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, simply gave back every dollar he had been paid by NXIVM – and slunk away from the battlefield. Had he chosen to fight – and used his political connections – Raniere may never have developed into the dangerous and sadistic megalomaniac he became.

Some of the famous actors who became members of NXIVM simply snuck away. Kristin KreukMark Hildreth, and Grace Park cowered in the shadows when their voices would have added a lot of credibility to the anti-NXIVM cause. The irony of it is that all of them like to play roles of brave and crusading heroes on TV.

Maybe they are partly victims also.  Like any war, the NXIVM War has resulted in lots of collateral damage. Truly innocent people who got sucked into Raniere’s web of deceit, lies, and intimidation – and lost thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, or both. Some lost their lives [but that is a story for another day.]

The most recent warriors to step forth include Catherine Oxenberg, a mother who is simply unwilling to abandon her daughter to the clutches of Raniere.  She was the first and only parent who had the courage and gumption to put herself out on the line. [It is true Edgar Bronfman was the first parent to call NXIVM a cult. But he stopped his efforts and accepted the fact that his daughters were doomed in a vicious and horribly evil cult. I was told he went to his grave a broken man because of it.]

Catherine was different. She was the first person who told me about the human branding – in May 2017. I broke the story in June 2017 which led to mainstream media coverage.  She is the reason branding was revealed to the world. After I published the first branding story, many people in NXIVM learned about it and quit. The story on Frank Report caused the cratering of the company in Vancouver, Los Angeles and, to a degree, in Albany.  Catherine also personally intervened and warned other women her daughter was about to lead them into a branding session and saved them literally from the hot branding iron. Catherine spoke with the New York Times giving their bombshell [but fantastical] story credibility, verified as it was from a well known public figure.

Catherine also spoke to other media and lent her good name – to a scandal-risking retaliation by Bronfman/Raniere/Salinas and the enmity of her daughter. Sadly, she was fought in this by her ex-husband, India’s stepfather, who thought it would be better that India remain secretly in the cult that brands women then get exposed publicly for being in a cult.

Then there was the role of Sarah Edmondson and Mark Vicente, two former High-Rank members of the cult who finally saw through Raniere’s bogus mysticism and bullshit – and saw him for what he really is: a narcissistic sociopath who has no conscience and who is deteriorating into a madman in the same manner that others like him have done before: e.g., Jim JonesDavid KoreshAdolph Hitler, etc.

Vicente provided a voice of reason and credibility that was essential in making the true story, that sounds fantastic, believable. He also helped many escape the cult behind the scenes. Edmondson did one of the most daring acts in modern PR history. She showed her brand to the world. It was a watershed moment when the NY Times photographed her and her brand — and published it on Page 1 of its Sunday edition. It was an act of courage without which it would have been far more difficult to make the world believe this crazy story.  Talk is big but her action was bigger. It was perhaps the single most momentous act in the takedown to date – with the exception of Raniere’s arrest in Mexico.

Even before she showed her brand, Sarah provided Frank Report with invaluable information. She was a confirming source not only for me, but importantly for many NXIVM members who read Frank Report but were doubtful if the crazy allegations I wrote about were true.  Many called Sarah to confirm what I wrote was true and she told them the truth. The branding and blackmail were real. Women who were scheduled to go under the cauterizing pen of Dr. Danielle Roberts [thinking it was to be a little tattoo] were able to avoid it – thanks to her. It should be obvious also that Edmondson was the one who took the actual biggest risk of having her collateral released.

Others that deserve notice [and gratitude] are Jen Kobelt, who exposed the human fright experiments of Dr. Brandon PorterToni Zarattini, in Mexico, who, at the risk literally of his life, helped implode the cult there. Anthony Ames, who made an explosion at Coach Summit that rocked the cult, after he found out his wife, Sarah Edmondson, was branded. Bonnie Piesse, who helped her husband, Mark Vicente, get out of NXIVM; who first told Catherine Oxenberg about her daughter being branded, and who was willing to speak, alongside her husband [and be photographed] in the New York Times. This takes courage to let the world know that what you once stood for was in reality something all false.

Then there was the excellent work of Albany Times Union reporter Brendan Lyons, who broke many key aspects of the story and the work, of course, of Barry Meir for the New York Time, who wrote the explosive story that captured the world’s attention.  Both of their newspapers were pivotal in exposing the cult for what it was and still is.

Then there were the women identified only as “Jane Does”. I spoke to most of them and in fact encouraged them [along with Catherine Oxenberg] in going forward to tell their stories to the FBI.  While they have not come out publicly, they provided an essential role in the anti-cult effort. There would be no criminal charges today without them.

There were scores of other people who chose not to be named who provided important information: in Mexico, USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia and, in particular, Albany. {The woman who goes by the name Laura Darby and Chris Burbs provided important info and, in Mexico, two important sources, provided an ongoing report on events and kept watch on Raniere – enabling me to break the news that Raniere was in Mexico.]

And there were attorneys – one in particular – who does not wish me to mention him – whose work with victims and law enforcement was crucial and who worked pro bono. Many of you know who I am referring to. He is one of the true unsung heroes. Sooner or later, his name will come out as a valiant fighter in the NXIVM War.  And, of course, there is a list of other attorneys who fought the endless legal battles against the Bronfman-Raniere litigation machine. Some worked pro-bono and others were paid, but all of them were in the battle. Michael Grygiel and Peter Skolnik are two names that stand out. But there were others.

A word also – for those who condemn Kristin Keeffe. Of all the High Rank members who defected, she was the highest ranking. She was incredibly close to Raniere and had a child with him. She did a lot of his work to legally destroy others – including having a hand in Bronfman-Raneire’s dirty work to get me indicted.  But – out of regard for her son – and a growing awareness that Raniere is pure evil, if not insane – she left the cult  at great personal risk.

After she left, Raniere-Bronfman spent more than a million dollars with private detectives to hunt her down and, based on evidence I obtained recently, they may have intended to murder her [She would have disappeared on a kayak]. If Keeffe helped the cult, she also made real and substantive efforts to bring Raniere down after she left in February 2014.  She provided crucial information that got the bogus criminal and civil computer trespassing cases thrown out and the corrupt indictments dropped against Natalie, O’Hara, and Bouchey.   She also provided information on other criminal actions of Raniere – including Raniere-Salinas’ scheme to lure Natalie, Bouchey, Dones and others to Mexico and have them falsely imprisoned and raped.

Credit also goes to the worldwide media who have taken this story up after the branding became known. They helped express the conscience of the people. They helped keep the story alive and were indicators of how a jury might look at the cruel deeds of Bronfman- Raniere. [I won’t say Allison Mack for she was a useful idiot, despite Raniere’s ruthless push to make her the fall girl and save himself].

Finally, let me name U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue and his staff, the first law enforcement officials at any level who were not bought off, scared off, or just uninterested in taking on Raniere and his financial backers, Clare Bronfman and Sarah Bronfman-Igtet. Without their commitment to justice – and their willingness to take on the well-financed cult defense lawyers – there was no chance of victory.

Among the workers in this is: the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section; Assistant United States Attorneys Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar, who are in charge of the prosecution; Assistant United States Attorney Karin Orenstein who is in charge of the forfeiture portion of the case, and FBI Special Agent Micheal Lever and his colleagues who investigated this case with intelligence, aggressiveness and intrepidity [and are still investigating].

There are probably others who also participated who I should name. I hope my readers will help me in that in the comments section.

As the NXIVM War goes forward and more of its leaders and enablers are brought to justice, there will be others who participate in the takedown.

Welcome to the fight.

 


About the author

Artvoice

Artvoice

News and art, national and local. Began as alternative weekly in 1990 in Buffalo, NY. Publishing content online since 1996.

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