I began working for Clare Bronfman and Sara Bronfman in September 2007.
I soon understood that Keith Raniere, who prefers to be called by his self-given title of Vanguard, made all the decisions.
I was told he was a great man, with noble intentions. He was misunderstood because his ideas were not mainstream.
The Bronfman sisters hired me to bring about a better public understanding of Keith Raniere.
At that time, he had bad press but nothing compared to what he has since earned.
Perhaps I was unobservant, but my early meetings with him and his followers did not reveal him to be an evil person.
Nancy Salzman, Kathy Russell, Kristin Keeffe, Barbara Bouchey, Farouk Rojas, Clare Bronfman, Sara Bronfman, Jim Del Negro, Karen Unterreiner, Karen Abney, Pam Cafritz, Loretta Garza, Sylvie Lloyd, Michelle Salzman, Becky Freeman, Camila Fernandez, Adrian Fernandez, Allison Mack, and others seemed friendly and intelligent.
Keith was portrayed as a monk. He wore long hair and sandals. He spoke of Buddhist philosophy.
A baby in their midst, I was told, was an orphan. His mother died giving him birth. His father unknown. They took the orphan in and were raising him.
[ I later learned Keith was the father of the baby. This noble man denied his own son to his followers. But he was misunderstood?]
At that time, the sum total of bad press boiled down to a negative article that had appeared several years earlier in Forbes magazine, a few early and comparatively tame stories in the Times Union, and a negative story in the Albany weekly, Metroland. The New York Post had also just begun writing about Keith Raniere.
I thought I could establish relationships with reporters, be transparent and the truth would get out. I began that process.
At the time there were two main lawsuits: against Rick Ross and Joe O’Hara.
I was told Joe O’Hara swindled the Bronfman sisters and Rick Ross had received stolen course material and published it online.
I was offered a bonus if I could find evidence to get them indicted.
I was surprised to learn that Keith directed the Bronfmans to spend $4 million in legal fees pursuing a $2 million loan they made to Joe O’Hara, which he used to buy two properties just south of Albany. Clare, in turn, was supposed to buy back one of the properties to use a horse farm.
It was Keith who advised them to make the loan in the first place.
I found out they could have gotten back the $2 million from Joe early on but Keith refused to take the properties back or let Joe sell them to pay back the money.
Keith wanted a criminal indictment. [He was not afraid to have Clare perjure herself I found out later.]
As for Rick Ross, I found Keith used Bronfman money to pay Richard Mays to try to get Rick Ross indicted in Arkansas (Mays is a well-connected politico and former judge in Arkansas who is close friends with the Clintons). Keith used Bronfman money to give to Hillary Clinton in return for her help in getting Rick Ross indicted.
Keith also wanted to indict his old girlfriend Toni Natalie for “stealing” $50,000 from Nancy Salzman eight years earlier. He had spent about $1 million of Bronfman money pursuing Toni Natalie over $50,000.
He did not want the money. He wanted her in jail. [I later learned she did not steal any money from him. Keith had stolen $50,000 and lost it in commodities trades].
Keith lost in court trying to block Toni’s bankruptcy [he bankrupted her through relentless litigation]. Now, he was spending money investigating her, trying to find something to indict her on. He offered me money if I could help get her indicted.
He also offered people in federal law enforcement $1 million dollars if they would indict Toni Natalie.
I tried to persuade the Bronfmans this was not a good use of money and all of Keith’s bad press could be traced to things that came out in discovery, and at trial from his overkill litigation.
They said Keith told them their father Edgar Bronfman Sr. was behind the bad press. That Keith said justice had to be done and money had to be spent to uphold justice in the world.
They did whatever Keith told them to do.
In December, I found the Bronfmans had invested $26 million in a Los Angeles real estate project that Keith was guiding. The project had run over budget. Nancy Salzman asked if I could help the Bronfman’s get $5 million in financing to put in the project. They were low on funds I was told; they were waiting for their next trust fund payment to come through.
I realized something was wrong.
I went to California. I found that Keith was guiding the Bronfman sisters into losing a lot of money. They had invested $26 million into several Los Angeles properties that were not even in their names. The properties were owned by Nancy Salzman and Keith’s “best friend”, Yuri Plyam.
I was working for the Bronfmans, not Keith or Nancy. I restructured the deal, giving the Bronfmans 66 percent ownership – which gave them control of the project. I arranged financing so they would not have to invest more money. I was prepared to manage the development to recover their money and make a profit.
I wanted to work out a settlement with Yuri Plyam.
But Keith intervened. He did not care about the project. He wanted Yuri indicted at whatever cost to the Bronfmans.
I also learned that Keith had a history with Yuri. Keith had “invested” and lost $65 million of the Bronfman’s money in commodities trades a few years before.
Yuri was the commodities broker.
I questioned Clare Bronfman about it. I asked if she had proof the $65 million was actually invested in commodities. She said she did not have proof. She said Keith said her father swung the commodities market against Keith to make her and her sister lose faith in Kieth and leave him.
I said I had doubts that the money was really invested in commodities and that she was not getting the whole story.
Keith had “lost” $65 million of their money in commodities, then he had them invest $26 million into properties that were not in their names. He spent millions in wasteful litigation that only brought bad press. I added it up: It was more than $100 million.
Keith was either not “the smartest man in the world” (which is what he claimed to be) or he was a very smart thief.
That was the last time I spoke with Clare Bronfman while I was employed by her.
Within days, I was fired.
Keith added me to the list of people he wanted indicted.
[To be continued]