This article was originally published on Deep City Chronicles
What do you get when you mix a former child-genius who grew into an adult with a pathological god complex, two sister heirs of a multi-million-dollar fortune with daddy issues, and an endless supply of emotionally unstable, aspiring actresses? The answer, apparently, is a sex-cultish pyramid scheme called NXIVM, masquerading as a self-empowerment program, which engages in child trafficking, blackmail, branding, and rape.
Keith Raniere, the 57-year old founder and mastermind of the organization pronounced NEX-i-um, was arrested by Mexican authorities in late March at an estate in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, and deported to Texas, where he was arraigned on charges brought against him by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY.
Raniere, who had been in and out of the public (and law enforcement) eye for almost two decades, had so far avoided too much attention, despite a 2003 Forbes Magazine cover story, that painted him and his organization in a most unflattering light. The secretive self-help “guru” had continued to dispense his unusual brand of personal empowerment techniques to thousands of paying customers through his so-called ESP (Executive Success Program) seminars, imparted internationally by several franchise-like partnerships with some very influential people around the world.
His relative anonymity came to a screeching halt as a result of his arrest in Mexico, followed by the detention of one of his co-conspirators (as defined in the FBI’s filing), Allison Mack. Widely known to the younger generation as “Chloe” of the hit Television show, Smallville, Mack’s arrest sent shockwaves through the Internet, which has latched on to the story, ever since. Curiously, her sycophantic character in the teen melodrama somewhat mirrors her current ‘real-life’ drama, which revolved around a not-so-subtle worship of the show’s hero, an adolescent Superman. Even more odd is the apparently factual claim that fellow star, Kristin Kreuk, who played the treacherous “Lana Lang” character on the same series, was the one who brought Mack into Raniere’s group after taking one of the organization’s “intensives” – a multi-day empowerment course. According to Barbara Bouchey, former member and NXIVM bookkeeper, Mack created a program within the organization called The Source, which targeted actors to bring into Raniere’s lair.
Much of the press has focused on the shocking details of the physical and psychological abuse endured by the group’s inner circle sorority members, who have been subjected to sleep deprivation and sexual coercion, and the brutal heat stamping of their skin with a cauterizing pen during a 30-minute, video-taped ritual imposed on selected female members by other female members, upon induction to DOS, an acronym for the Latin “Dominus Obsequious Sororium”, which loosely translates to Master Over the Slave Women. Allison Mack is said to have functioned at the highest level of the sorority, and is alleged to have benefitted financially from her participation, receiving compensation for bringing women into the Raniere-created group.
As disturbing as the involvement of a well-known actress may be, that might just be the tip of the iceberg. In an interview with WNYT, Bouchey remarked that, “as the story unfolds, the branding and the women’s group is what’s getting everybody’s attention, however, I think there’s so much more underneath…” As we delve further into the NXIVM story, her warning becomes unassailable.
The Higher Ups
NXIVM’s tentacles extend all over the world. But, when the Eastern District of New York launched a full-on investigation into NXIVM and Keith Raniere, the self-styled messiah fled south of the border, where some of his most important friends could put him up for a while.
The man who led NXIVM’s operations in Mexico was Emiliano Salinas Occelli, son of none-other than Carlos Salinas de Gortari, former President and one of the most powerful, if reviled figures in the country. Despite the fact that Gortari had to flee to Ireland and then Fidel’s Cuba in the wake of his calamitous presidency (1988-1994), marked by the massive heist known as FOBAPROA, he is once again living in Mexico, but is careful (and powerful enough) to remain out of the spotlight. Gortari is a known psychopath, who murdered a maid in his house when he was a young boy. Much of the wealth he stole, and which he continues to generate through various financial interests, is hidden behind one of Forbes’ so-called “richest men in the world”, Carlos Slim, who is simply a frontman for the illicit Salinas family fortune, and other Mexican one-percenters who wish to remain anonymous.
Police in Mexico do not operate independently, and do not initiate investigations – that job is left to the judicial branch, who, in turn work at the behest of whichever political clique happens to be running the country. Mexican cops are low-paid grunts who spend their time extorting the population for their own survival, and only execute arrests like Raniere’s in Puerto Vallarta when they are directed by someone higher up on the food chain. The go-ahead to apprehend the American might have come from Salinas himself, as the heat had started to build on his son, and began to pose a problem for Salinas’ future political ambitions. Initially, the scion of the notorious ex-President was forced to distance himself publicly from the allegations against DOS, citing the same excuse given by Raniere himself, who asserted that the “sorority” of women who had branded each other with a mysterious symbol, combining both his own initials and those of Allison Mack, was in no way connected with the NXIVM organization.
Raniere’s other Mexican partner, Alejandro Betancourt Ledesma – who managed the Mexican NXIVM operation with Salinas Occelli, had previously availed himself of his lawyer’s services to send threatening letters to the guru’s detractors and legal challengers in America, and even managed to procure a worthless, but perhaps frightening “cease and desist” order from a Mexican federal agent, which was sent to at least twenty of Raniere’s enemies in the U.S.
Rosa Laura Junco, daughter of the publisher of one of the country’s largest newspapers, Reforma, is allegedly a member of DOS, and has also been branded, according to sources. In addition, Raniere is also partner in another company with Emiliano Salinas Occelli, along with Alejandra González Anaya – sister of Mexico’s Secretary of the Treasury, called Ánima (Spirit), which has received several Mexican government contracts over the years, including the Pan-American Games of 2011, which took place in Guadalajara.
Since Raniere’s arrest, Emiliano Salinas has divested himself completely from any interests in NXIVM, though none of the statements issued by him or his communication vehicles give a specific reason for the break.
Edgar Bronfman Jr. royally pissed off his father, original heir to the Seagram’s wine and spirits empire, when he married Sherry Brewer, a beautiful black woman. “Are you telling me that I couldn’t be president of Seagram if I married Sherry?”, asked a defiant Edgar Jr. “No.”, was Sr.’s matter-of-fact answer. But, marriage in the Bronfman clan was never a ‘till death do us part’ kind of thing, and in good time, Edgar Jr. would assume the reins of the company, and Sherry would make way for Jr.’s second wife, the New York educated Venezuelan daughter of the Chairman of Petroleos de Venezuela. Bronfman Sr., himself, had recently remarried for the third time, to Rita Webb, aka, Georgina, who would bear his last two children, Sara and Clare Bronfman. Edgar Jr.’s mother, Ann Loeb, heiress of the Kuhn, Loeb & Company banking dynasty, had divorced his father just two years prior; a union that produced five offspring altogether.
The Bronfmans are in the pantheon of 20th Century royalty. Samuel Bronfman, the patriarch who’d started it all, had been President of the World Jewish Congress. Seagram’s growth, a basic spirits company founded by the “gruff Russian Jew”, was made possible by the more than two billion dollars in stock dividends from stock in DuPont owned by the company. By the time Edgar Jr. joined the company in 1982, Seagram would be a six-billion-dollar multinational behemoth, that owned such noteworthy assets like Chivas Regal, Crown Royal and Absolut Vodka, among many others.
But the young Bronfman Jr. had a strong creative streak, and was first attracted to a career in film production; an itch he scratched before taking a position in the family business with a couple of movie ventures. He never fully relinquished his love for show business, and in 1993, Edgar Jr. persuaded the Seagram board to purchase 4.9 percent of Time Warner, just under the 5 percent threshold that would require public disclosure. Eventually, Seagram would acquire 15 percent of the massive media company, setting off rumors of a hostile takeover, which never materialized.
In 1995, Bronfman Jr. approached DuPont to propose a deal where the chemical giant would buy back Seagram’s stock for $9 billion; a move that drew heavy criticism on Bronfman Jr., who proceeded with the deal nevertheless, and used to money to make further inroads into the content and media business, buying a controlling interest in MCA, which included assets such as Universal Pictures. Five years later, Bronfman Jr. sold controlling interest of Seagram’s entertainment division to the Vivendi corporation, and its beverage division to Pernod-Ricard. In 2002, Seagram’s assets – in excess of 250 by then – were auctioned off by the French company. Seagram was no more. Charles Bronfman, Edgar Jr.’s uncle, called the events leading up to Seagram’s demise “a disaster… It is a family tragedy.”
It was around this time, as the once mighty wine and spirits colossus was crumbling to the ground that Edgar Jr.’s young half-sisters, Sara and Clare Bronfman, were making the acquaintance of the eccentric genius guru in upstate New York. At just 25 years of age, Sara would take the first leap, undergoing one of the NXIVM’s “intensives” in the fall of 2002. The course, a combination of hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) was ostensibly designed for self-improvement and personal empowerment. The younger Clare, was less enthusiastic about the course, but relented under her sister’s prodding and took one herself soon thereafter.
Edgar Bronfman Sr. had a strained relationship with Clare and Sara, whose mother he had divorced when they were just 4 and 7, respectively. Much of their lives had been spent traveling between England and Kenya, where their mother and Richard Leakey, a renowned Paleontologist, carried on an affair. The old man was eager to rekindle a relationship with his youngest daughters, and in the early part of 2003 took one of Raniere’s courses himself. Bronfman Sr. turned out to be so impressed, that he arranged for private therapy sessions with NXIVM’s second-in-command, Nancy Salzman, who was flown in his helicopter from the group’s compound in New York to his estate in Virginia. This went on for months, until, it is said, Clare revealed to her father, that Raniere had borrowed $2 million dollars from her.
Bronfman Sr. was reportedly livid, and cut ties with NXIVM immediately. In October of that year, Forbes would publish the hit piece on Keith Raniere, entitled “Cult of Personality”. The article would reveal all sorts of previously unknown information about the man, including his sketchy business past with Consumers’ Buyline, a marketing concern, which had been shut down by regulators in 1993 over claims it was a pyramid scheme. The Forbes piece also went into some detail about NXIVM’s odd practices and Raniere’s obsession with the works of Ayn Rand. Bronfman Sr. himself was quoted in the article, calling the group “a cult”. For Sara and Clare, this was nothing short of betrayal by their father, who saw their progress at NXIVM as a personal achievement.
Raniere, perhaps intuiting how to benefit from this rift, suggested that the Bronfman girls become clients of Barbara Bouchey’s asset management firm. Bouchey, who was then part of NXIVM’s board of directors, and one of Raniere’s girlfriends, is today one of Raniere’s biggest detractors. At the time, Bouchey didn’t grasp the conflict of interest, as she signed check after check, drawing funds from the Bronfman girls’ accounts to finance Raniere’s ambitions.
Between the years of 2004 and 2010, according to legal filings and public records, $150 million was withdrawn from the Bronfman’s trust and bank accounts. Among the expenses were $30 million in real estate investments, $11 million for a private jet, and over $65 million to cover Raniere’s trading losses through First Principles, a company registered under Nancy Salzman’s name. At one point, in need of more money, the Bronfman girls sought to access a trust reserved until Bronfman Sr.’s passing, by changing the trustees, who oversaw it.
Bronfman Sr. began to consider the possibility of having his daughters declared legally incompetent, to stem the financial bloodletting, but was dissuaded by the idea of stigmatizing the family name with such a recourse.
Raniere put Sara and Clare on the NXIVM board, with Sara given the title of “Minister of Humanities”, which put her in charge of organizing all events. She arranged a V.I.P. session with Richard Branson on his private island in the Caribbean, and continued to climb the NXIVM ladder. Clare, meanwhile, was also becoming closer to the organization practically abandoning her equestrian dreams – she was a trained jumper, and in 2004 she was running for the U.S. Olympic trials – but, on Raniere’s advice, decided to sell most of her horses, and a $7 million-dollar training center to continue financing Raniere’s projects.
In 2009, the Bronfman sisters organized what seemed like the biggest success of their lives, when they managed to book the Dalai Lama to speak in Albany, New York. The event’s announcement caused an uproar in the local press, which decried the holy man’s association with the “cult-like” group. Two potential venues, including Raniere’s alma mater, refused to host the event, and after a slew of emails sent to the Dalai Lama himself, complaining about said association, he cancelled his appearance.
Alas, the reincarnated spiritual master is a practical man, and after Sara Bronfman flew to India to plead with him (and the Dalai Lama Trust was registered in New York State), the visit was back on. Sara and Clare beamed when he called them “friends” only a few feet away from him on the stage at the Palace Theater in Albany in May.
The newborn appeared out of nowhere in 2007. Gaelen, as they call him, arrived in upstate New York with then NXIVM member Kristin Keefe. The boy’s provenance was as mysterious as that of little Clark Kent when the farmer couple found the kid of steel in the middle of their wheat field. Keefe claimed the baby’s grandfather had simply handed him over to her after his mother had died a few weeks earlier in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Barbara Bouchey, who was then still Raniere’s confidante, said that she overheard the child “would be raised utilizing Keith’s methodology, and the child would be exposed to certain kinds of music, certain kinds of physical exercise and language.”
Gaelen would be the first test-case for Raniere’s so-called “Rainbow Cultural Garden”, a controversial program developed with Dr. Brandon Porter, a New York doctor, who was being investigated in December of 2017 for traumatic experiments on women, which allegedly consisted in making the female subjects watch videos of rape and murder.
Keefe, and the boy escaped NXIVM with the help of the New York State Police in 2014.
In a lawsuit involving former NXIVM attorney Joseph O’Hara and the Bronfmans, Ethical Foundation, a non-profit O’Hara says was being used to illegally hide funds for for-profit activities, was turned over to the group with $230,000 in funds. O’Hara complained to Andrew Cuomo’s office, but didn’t hear back. The funds have since been directed to a new foundation called Ethical Science Foundation, led by Clare Bronfman, which claims to do brain research by the aforementioned Dr. Porter.
Rainbow Cultural Garden LLC, which is affiliated with another company called Ethical Principles, Inc., has 11 branches around the world. Described as an “early child-development program which, through careful, progressive exposure to multiple languages, cultures, representational systems, and aesthetics, seeks to inspire and capture the miraculous, creative, learning lives of children.”
Late in 2017, Rainbow Cultural Garden U.K., which listed Sara Bronfman as CEO on its website, before it was taken down, was placed under “review” by a watchdog group. Just yesterday, the Miami New Times reported that Rainbow Cultural Garden Miami, was ordered closed by state authorities. The school, located close to Miami’s posh Design District was inaugurated by Raquel Perera in 2015. Perera is the wife of Spanish pop star, Alejandro Sanz. She claimed to “direct” the school, and credited Raniere with creating the school’s curriculum in an interview with Spanish-language television station, Univision, that same year. Their son, Dylan, is supposedly a student.
According to Frank Parlato Jr., who has been exposing NXIVM for years on his blog (FrankReport.com), the schools are “an attempt to train children to become sociopaths who can never bond with their parents”.
The parade of celebrities who have passed through NXIVM, and the methods used in their courses and seminars, bears more than a passing resemblance to another cult-like organization: Scientology.
Linda Evans, Richard Branson, Allison Mack, Kristen Kreuk, and Sheila Johnson, founder of BET, are just a few of the well-known people, that we know have had close dealings with this nefarious group.
Keith Raniere, who makes his followers call him “Vanguard”; a man has expressed a megalomaniacal desire to start his own country – going as far as collecting names of people with Native American heritage, in hopes having enough of them to claim sovereignty for a future land purchase; whose former girlfriend and former NXIVM member, Toni Natalie, has been warning others and counseling ex-members for almost twenty years; and, finally, has been known to authorities for at least as long, is finally facing justice.
Raniere may be an evil genius, but whoever has been protecting him all these years must be the devil himself.