By George Frobisher
Bronfman and Raniere obstructed justice, made false statements, committed perjury, and conspired to commit various federal crimes as part of the effort to preserve the enterprise’s activities.
Last year, the Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorneys’ Office alleged that Clare Bronfman is Raniere’s chief financial backer.
Within months of these revelations, the Western District of New York superseded an indictment against Parlato, the cult’s former publicist. While Parlato was originally accused of defrauding the Bronfmans, based on an unexecuted “Letter of Intent” [LOI] conveying a property interest to the Bronfmans that the Bronfmans never signed, the superseding indictment against Parlato entirely eliminated and excised the Bronfmans from it.
Could it be because of the Eastern District’s findings on the Bronfmans and Raniere?
Keith Raniere, a convicted conman, whose Consumers Buyline was closed by the New York Attorney General in the 1990s as an illegal pyramid scheme, re-imaged the pyramid scheme in the form of NXIVM where members pay for “self-help” training to improve their lives, in consideration for thousands of dollars for “courses.”
Much of the allure was predicated on Raniere’s representation that he was the world’s smartest man, and his bio, listing a host of accomplishments ranged from being a judo champion at age 11 to having the world’s highest IQ. These claims were fabrications. The implication and suggestion, to enrollees of “Executive Success Programs” and NXIVM, was that the world’s smartest man could help them achieve greater success because he was the world’s smartest man.
Investigators in the EDNY obtained Raniere’s college transcripts, revealing he graduated with a disappointing 2.26 GPA, having flunked and barely passed his upper-level math and science courses.
Another part of the allure was the appearance of success and opulence within the group. Most of this appearance came from the money of the Bronfman sisters, Clare and Sara, who lavished upon Raniere millions of dollars, financing his private jet travel at up to $65,000 per flight, and financing the ruinous civil and criminal litigation against Raniere’s enemies, with Clare Bronfman actually testifying against critics and cult defectors, and once even virtually impersonating a Mexican attorney to send victims cease-and-desist letters.
Use of Law Enforcement and Courts to Silence Victims and Critics
For years, when various members who sought to leave Nxivm, or speak out against Raniere, they were met with legal action and threats of it. Before entering into the cult, members were required to sign non-disclosure agreements. Bronfman helped financed the 14 year litigation against Rick Ross, a cult expert and deprogrammer, who tried to assist in the intervention of a cult member, Michael Sutton, at the behest of his family.
Nxivm claimed Ross and others misappropriated trade secrets of Nxivm. Notwithstanding the confidentiality agreement, the court held there were was nothing secret about the material in the courses that Ross published, and granted summary judgment to Ross on that cause of action.
The litigation went on for 14 years, finally being settled in late 2017 when Bronfman, Nancy Salzman and Raniere understood that the FBI was investigating them. They were subsequently arrested.
The Bronfmans did not stop at civil litigation against Ross. They hired a Niagara Falls, NY attorney to provide legal services on “the Ross matter, a review of same and presentation to a California attorney for the potential presentation to the California Attorney General[.]” Translation: get Rick Ross indicted.
Merely hiring counsel to privately investigate a criminal matter, and to enforce one’s rights is ordinarily not illegal. When it is done frivolously (Bronfmans lost almost all of their lawsuits and criminal cases) or with the purpose of concealing criminal activity within the cult that the investigated parties, critics, and victims were privy to, and could expose the cult to legal jeopardy, this kind of engagement to investigate and secure an indictment appears to have been part of a conspiracy of misprision of felony and other federal crimes.
Bronfman Anti-Free Speech
The Bronfmans’ criminally-derived family fortune has been used by the sisters to finance costly, speech-chilling lawsuits against journalists who wrote negatively about Nxivm, the Bronfmans, and Raniere.
Journalists who dared call it what it was, i.e. a cult, including Vanity Fair’s Suzanne Andrews, and Albany Times Union’s James Odato. Both felt the costly sting, pressure, and potential for ruination as Nxivm and the Bronfmans’ “asserted their legal rights,” in various state and federal courts, where sleepy judges uncritically permitted the meritless cases to trudge and wallow through dockets on innumerable, costly motions that were tactically designed by the Bronfmans – and by and through their attorneys – to bankrupt the civil defendants.
Nxivm alleged the journalists and others hacked into their computers. For all of the legal bullying Bronfmans’ money could buy, a Federal judge dismissed this Bronfman-backed lawsuit on procedural grounds.
A case of lover’s spite, with millions to toy with
Another victim/survivor of Raniere and the Bronfmans is Toni Natalie, Raniere’s ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him in 1998.
Raniere endeavored to make her life a living hell ever after through numerous lawsuits, criminal complaints, actually getting her indicted twice, bankrupting her, then opposing her bankruptcy just to ensure that the pain, costs, stress, and punishment would not end.
Even after Natalie left him, Raniere was able to initiate lawsuits against her because of their mutual business ties. When it became evident to Raniere that Natalie wasn’t going to return, in revenge, she was sued repeatedly over accusations related to the health food shop she and Raniere set up in Clifton, NY, in Natalie’s name.
The shop, like so many of Raniere’s executive successes, failed and closed. Natalie filed for bankruptcy. When her legal bills exceeded her assets, Raniere hired lawyers to block her bankruptcy. That went on for eight years.
In 2003, US bankruptcy Judge Robert Littlefield wrote: “This matter smacks of a jilted fellow’s attempt at revenge or retaliation against his former girlfriend, with many attempts at tripping her up along the way.”
During this onslaught – funded by Bronfman millions – Raniere hired Interfor, a private investigation firm, to spy on Natalie in her home. Raniere had a lawyer contact the US Attorney and the FBI to encourage an investigation. FBI agents showed up at her home, Natalie said.
Evidence revealed by Nxivm defector Kristin Keeffe indicates Raniere planned a scheme to lure Natalie to Mexico where she was to have been arrested through the influence of NXVIM’s Mexico leader Emiliano Salinas, the son of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas.
The Raniere team used Bronfman money to hire another firm to investigate Natalie. In 2006, eight years after they had broken up, Raniere launched another effort to instigate a criminal investigation by the IRS and hopeful criminal prosecution of Natalie.
Raniere and the Bronfmans [both Clare and her sister Sara], through Nxivm and their attorneys, with practically unfettered access to their massive trust funds, were able to secure Natalie’s felony indictment for alleged computer trespass in 2014. This came on top of, by now, years of financially devastating lawsuits. Natalie was later granted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal; for all intents and purposes, this represented a flat out dismissal of a meritless case against her.
Shortly after Natalie left Raniere, Barbara Bouchey became one of Raniere’s top harem women and remained so for nine years (2000-2009). Like Natalie, Bouchey claims she was also told by Raniere she would have a child with him that would change the world.
Of course, that never happened.
Bouchey was a NXIVM board member and the financial manager for top-ranking NXIVM members. Raniere “borrowed” more than $1.6 million from her and lost it [he says] in bad commodities market trades. [Sinister world forces sought to foil his flawless system because they were worried that he was so smart he could take over the commodities markets.]
According to Bouchey, when she asked to be repaid, he said he thought it was a gift.
Within two years of leaving, Raniere had Clare Bronfman and NXIVM sue Bouchey in lawsuits six times, using six different law firms. They accused her of misappropriation of funds and extortion (for asking for her $1.6 million back).
She was also called as a witness in four other cases against other enemies, in three states, before eight judges, resulting in over 800 filings, containing over 16,000 pages. The cost of Bouchey’s lawyers exceeded $400,000. She declared bankruptcy.
Bouchey wrote to one judge that what NXIVM did to her “should be considered criminal …Their abuse of the legal system and the vendetta sought on individuals such as myself needs to stop.”
Scheming to Defraud Employees
Another target was former NXIVM consultant Joseph O’Hara, who quit in 2005 when he said he discovered Raniere was involved in tax evasion schemes and that Raniere hired private investigators to illegally spy on his enemies.
Raniere launched a series of lawsuits that plunged O’Hara into bankruptcy. In 2007, O’Hara was targeted for, allegedly, swindling the Bronfmans out of an investment on a land deal. The Bronfmans spent more money suing O’Hara than he allegedly took from them.
But Raniere wanted O’Hara indicted on a criminal offense. Somehow Keeffe was permitted by the Albany County DA, David Soares, to work as a legal intern in his office to help build a case against O’Hara [Such positions are usually filled by first or second year law students]. She even had her own desk.
An Albany County grand jury indicted O’Hara on a charge of grand larceny. But a judge threw out the case citing insufficient evidence, a rare occurrence. as any one familiar with grand jury proceedings knows. The indictment must have really been faulty in every way – almost as if the indictment was a favor to Bronfman-Raniere [It might be mentioned that Soares had relatives who attended Nxivm courses.]
Part of Bronfman and Raniere’s scheme to defraud employees and independent contractors and consultants of their earnings and contracts, after a frivolous objection to some immaterial fact and termination of employment, would be to allege they, the Bronfmans, were victims of the employee’s fraud.
Sometimes, when Raniere was comparatively benign, he would instruct the Bronfmans to instruct their attorneys or non-attorney agents, to demand the return of any payment or compensation already received by the employee. If the employee was smart, he would pay, sign a settlement and confidentiality agreement, and run away. The Bronfmans did this with alarming frequency.
Not all employees of Bronfman were criminally prosecuted. A case in point of is that of U.S. Senator Kristin Gilllibrand’s father, Doug Rutnik. He was retained as a consultant and legal adviser by NXIVM in 2004, at the rate of $25,000 per month. He was hired to help them resolve an array of legal and political problems that were hampering NXIVM’s operations – or so he thought.
One of those problems concerned a long-overdue payment Raniere owed to the New York State Attorney General arising from his closed-down Consumers’ Buyline operation. Rutnick’s main contact person was Nancy Salzman (Salzman is president of Executive Success Programs. Her house was raided by the FBI in March 2018 and $523,000 in cash was found in a shoe box and removed by federal agents.]
While Raniere is known as “Vanguard,” she is known as “Prefect.”
After four months, Rutnik quit, having been informed of possible illegal activities NXIVM and Raniere were involved in. Raniere decided he could not quit. He directed the company to sue Rutnik and, as an additional threatening gesture, NXIVM reared allegations of ‘sexual harassment’ against Rutnik claiming he had inappropriate behavior toward, of all people, Nancy Salzman. Rutnik had enough. He quickly settled by returning every dollar paid to him – $100,000.
In short, Rutnik ended up receiving no payment for services he provided NXIVM. He was defrauded, and, in an irony of ironies, was accused of sexual harassment by a sex-slave cult.
Fortunately for Rutnik, he was only, in retrospect, a defrauded employee, and not an unfortunate member of the family of those criminally accused, with such meritless accusations founded upon Clare’s perjury, and Raniere’s brainchild products.
Perjury and Lies: Getting Frank Parlato Indicted—
The Bronfmans, through Nxivm, maintained ‘shell’ offices in Niagara Falls, NY. And, as discussed extensively in other articles, they had retained Frank Parlato, Jr. for various consulting work, paying him at first, $75,000 per month.
Additionally, Clare Bronfman was quite hands-on in her payment to Parlato, signing herself the required documentation to initiate the wire transactions from her account to Parlato’s company.
Notwithstanding her hands-on involvement and knowledge as to exactly how much she paid Parlato in 2008, Bronfman later testified that she believed she paid Parlato $30 to $35 per hour, in a civil case in California that Parlato helped her and her sister win.
The Bronfmans and Raniere terminated Parlato’s services in 2008, but only after he helped secure their title to $26 million in real property assets. They then sued him and initiated or participated in a criminal complaint against him in Buffalo, but only after Parlato assisted them in winning their civil suit relative to the recovery of those real property assets, in Precision v. Plyam.
The decision to terminate Parlato rested on flimsy grounds: i.e., that he did not provide a rapid accounting, overnight (which was not required in the employment agreement, anyway). The Bronfmans have used this pretext for termination in other cases against others, as well.
The Bronfmans hired attorneys to investigate Parlato in April 2008, shortly after Parlato was terminated.
The clause in the above-excerpted retainer agreement, “all aspects of a certain real estate investment and payment to consultants[,]” indicated Raniere and the Bronfmans’ intent on cheating Parlato of his advance, after he had already performed work and given value in the multi-millions. Shortly after, Nxivm’s legal liaison emailed the Bronfmans about the proposal (below).
Nxivm’s private investigation into Parlato to secure an indictment commenced almost immediately after he was fired in early 2008. Right away, Keeffe was instructed by Raniere to lead the charge, communicating, organizing, and providing Savino with a “case.”
By October 2008, Savino’s firm (formerly Damon Morey) was “doing investigation into the Parlato case[.]” Clare Bronfman’s email to her sister, Sara and others shows her hands-on involvement (below).
Notwithstanding her awareness of the investigation into Parlato, Clare Bronfman was financing, she later in 2011 lied under oath about it, while Parlato was helping her to win the civil case in California regarding the real estate assets—
By Nov. 20, 2015, the Bronfmans had succeeded in getting Parlato indicted in the Western District of New York, Savino’s neck of the woods. The indictment alleged, in part, that Parlato entered into an agreement with the Bronfmans to provide services in exchange for $1 million, and that he defrauded them of their interest in his Niagara Falls commercial property.
While the Bronfmans were ultimately dropped from the criminal case against Parlato by May 2018, the Bronfmans nevertheless initiated the investigation back in 2008. The Bronfman fraud theory, likely suggested by Raniere, and formulated by Savino, that Parlato represented he needed a “loan” of $1 million to pay property taxes at his commercial building in Niagara Falls in order to perform work for the Bronfmans in Los Angeles.
As Keeffe explained in her 2008 email to attorney Michael Powers, the two “real agreements” the Letter of Intent not signed but nevertheless effective and enforceable, and the Agreement signed by Clare and Sara Bronfman appointed Parlato for one year as CEO and President of the companies. As the October 2008 email from Clare Bronfman to the “team” indicates, she was personally “in the loop” on Savino and his firm concocting a case against Parlato.
Keeffe later defected from Nxivm, and gave invaluable information to the FBI. At the time she was in, she helped Savino to earn fees by getting Parlato indicted, but she also let slip that Bronfman regarded the Letter of Intent and 2008 signed appointment agreement as REAL, and thus BINDING.
This flatly contradicts Bronfman’s statements made under oath in California in 2011—
It was more beneficial in the civil case to Bronfman to not accurately state how much she paid Parlato, and to speak positively of him —
According to Clare Bronfman, while she “loaned” Parlato $1 million, she was paying him his usual hourly rate of $30 or $35 dollars—
In private emails, Keeffe called the Letter of Intent the “real agreement.” Bronfman and Keeffe were Savino’s investigation “contact” for Parlato in 2008. But under oath in California in 2011, Clare Bronfman testified that she never agreed to the Letter of Intent, part of the “real agreement”—
Casting doubt on any ambiguity in Keeffe’s email to Powers in 2008 (above) referencing the “illusory” and “real agreements,” the second of the two “real agreements are identified below, where Bronfman identified the January 2008 “Agreement” (other than the Letter of Intent) as the “Real Agreement” —
Perjury: Bronfman does a 180°, then a 360° on Letter of Intent
But once inside the federal grand jury, where testimony is sealed and secret, Clare Bronfman testified that the Letter of Intent was REAL, and actually entered into—
Then, one year later, and well into Savino’s investigation of Parlato, Savino represented the Bronfmans in the accompanying civil suit against Parlato. This time, it was more expedient for them to claim that there was no “real agreement” in the form of a Letter of Intent, at variance with her testimony in the federal grand jury.
By 2012, in New York State court, it was more expedient for her to testify that there was NO written agreement for $1 million “loaned” to Parlato —
Critically, Savino, who oversaw the entire matter dating back to 2008, prepared and filed the verified complaint, “by and through” him (see above).
What does this mean and why does it matter?
It shows that Clare Bronfman lied with the help her attorney in Buffalo, William F. Savino, who communicated extensively with federal agents and the Assistant United States Attorney on the case – and both misled federal prosecutors to indict Parlato on the theory that Parlato defrauded the sisters. The theory of fraud in the criminal case against Parlato hinged on the validity of the Letter of Intent. The theory of civil liability in the civil case filed in 2012 rests on an oral agreement, and no written agreement, i.e., no “real agreement” as to the $1 million.
Problematically for Savino, he was not a Johnny-Come-Lately in 2012 that could accept his clients’ representations as true after reasonable verification and fact-checking of his own, as attorneys are expected to do for their clients before filing suit and negotiating settlements. Savino was involved dating back to 2008 as a hired hand to get Parlato indicted, working with Sara Bronfman, Clare Bronfman, and likely Raniere and others. Plausible deniability for Savino appears impossible under these circumstances.
While the statute of limitations in New York, California, and the WDNY have probably passed by now, depending on how recently made, the Bronfmans and Savino may still be liable for false statements and other crimes relative to their lying to the FBI, and using the WDNY as manipulable tools in their own sick, private vendettas. ANd because it was part of a racketeering enterprise both Sara and Clare Bronfman might expect to be indicted for iu.
Whether or not the WDNY will respond to having been so manipulated and lied to, time will tell.
But the crime of trying to get someone falsely indicted is far more serious than the racketeering acts that Raniere was charged with – a mere altering of a video in the civil case against Rick Ross.
Many lives have been wrecked by Clare and Sara Bronfman. Their ability to throw their money wherever they could to silence, discredit, and get their enemies indicted shows the fallibility of the state and federal criminal justice system, and the state and federal courts in civil cases.
It represents a systematic, weaponization of private attorneys in criminal and civil suits to effectively lobby to prosecutors to indict innocent people, all in order to protect and cover up the cult’s illegal and nefarious activities.
The mere engagement of an army of high-profile attorneys and private investigation firms and others itself lent to Bronfman and Raniere’s abusive litigation a great appearance of legitimacy, and they had unlimited funds to perpetuate the injustice.
From abusing ex-girlfriends Toni Natalie, to Barbara Bouchey, to defrauding ex-employees Doug Rutnik, Joseph O’Hara, and Frank Parlato, the Bronfmans and Raniere have made a mockery of American law enforcement and the courts; and they should both be annoyed.