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Joe O’Hara: Asleep At The Switch – How local officials allowed NXIVM to grow into an international crime syndicate

By Joseph O’Hara

Since several recent commenters have raised questions about the lawsuit that I brought against Keith Raniere and a bunch of others associated with the NXIVM/ESP cult back in February 2012, I thought it might be worthwhile to have the original Complaint posted here so that readers could see just how much of the cult’s criminal enterprise had been uncovered more than six years ago.

That lawsuit represented the collective work of a small group of people who understood just how dangerous Raniere and his followers had become – and its underlying purpose was to spur local law enforcement authorities in the Albany, NY area to do something to stop them before they did even more harm.

That, of course, didn’t happen because many of those local law enforcement authorities had been bought off or scared off by the cult and the financial resources provided to it by Clare and Sara Bronfman. Indeed, it was not until another five years had passed that Frank Parlato was able to get law enforcement officials to begin investigating what had, by then, grown into a full-fledged international crime syndicate.

And even then, it was a group of law enforcement officials who were more than a hundred miles away from the scene of most of the crimes who began investigating Raniere and his followers – and who are in the process of bringing them to justice!

To this day, not one charge has ever been brought in Albany County or Saratoga County against Raniere or any of his followers. Nor has any New York State governmental agency ever disciplined any member of NXIVM.

Whether those law enforcement and government officials who did nothing – and those who actively aided and abetted the Raniere/Bronfman criminal enterprise – will ever be brought to justice is doubtful. But people should never forget that the NXIVM crime syndicate could have – and should have – been stopped a lot sooner than it was.

About the author


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


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  • “Whether those law enforcement and government officials who did nothing…..will ever be brought to justice is doubtful.”

    Do you know is there any effort at all to investigate these officials?

  • Joe – Did you try to get Frank to come forward 6 years ago with what he knew about sex slaver Keith and his criminal enterprise since Frank himself had been hired to destroy NXIVM’s detractors?

    • Frank reached out to me shortly after he left NXIVM – and apologized for the small role he had played in NXIVM’s numerous legal attacks on me. Since that time, we have shared information and worked together – and with others – to expose the full scope of the criminality of NXIVM, Raniere, et al. Ancient Proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

      • Wow- so you are saying Frank knew since 2008. So from 2008 to late 2015, Frank stayed silent about what he knew about NXIVM and has lied when he claims he”turned on an instant” against them. He stayed silent during your lawsuit in 2012 and after the Times Union series in 2012 when he could have publicly backed up. you, the Union and Odata in ArtVoice or the Niagara Falls Reporter which he bought in April 2012. Instead he chose to stay silent, maybe hoping someone else would take down NXIVM and the 15 shell companies and 50 bank accounts he is accused of using to hide that million dollar s he got from NXIVM would remain hidden from the IRS. Frank seems to enjoy calling other people liars, cowards, and hypocrites, seems he could be describing himself.

        • My narcissistic ex used to start throwing all kinds of accusations and blame around when he got caught in a lie or was confronted with something wrong that he had done. Didn’t work to distract me then – won’t work on the DOJ. If Frank has a bill to pay in all of this, it will eventually come due. Right now there are a lot bigger and smellier fish to fry. Glass houses… glass houses…

        • There were lots of things going on behind the scenes in terms of trying to take down the Raniere/Bronfman crime syndicate for several years. Much of that involved turning over documents and information to various law enforcement officials – all of whom promised to “look into things” and none of whom did anything. And the crime syndicate wasn’t sitting on its hands either as it continued to file civil lawsuits and criminal complaints against many of its perceived enemies all throughout the period from 2005-2015.

          Despite enormous efforts by a lot of people, the simple reality is that no one in authority was willing to do anything to stop Raniere and the Bronfmans for more than a decade. It was only when Frank broke the story about the brandings that anyone in law enforcement actually did something (Kudos to Catherine Oxenberg for being willing to go public with that story).

          Had Frank not persisted in exposing the brandings and the other sordid things that Raniere and his followers were doing, the New York Times would never have written a word about NXIVM. It’s really that simple.

  • Instead of focusing on the hapless actress Kristen Kreuk who took seven years to figure out something was wrong with NXIVM, we should focus out ire on the public officials in Albany and Saratoga counties as well as the State of New York.
    If it were up to these local officials NXIVM would still be running strong.

    In many localities around the country it falls to the Federal government to clean up corruption.

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