Chris Berben: Why I chose to publicly stand and fight Keith Raniere

Editor’s note: There were only a handful of men who ever dared speak out against Keith Raniere. Chris ‘Burbs’ Berben was one who did. He got into it rather accidentally when he began dating DOS slave Vany Huber. He began to sense something diabolical and instead of slinking away, he chose to stand up and fight. He confronted various slaves. Openly published his observations and told the story of how Vany tried to lure him into the cult. When she found he was studying online info about the cult, she grew wroth and broke up with him. He did not just walk away. When the coward Raniere fled to Mexico, most likely to escape prosecution [a miscalculation], he told some of his followers that his life was being threatened and remaining in Albany was unsafe [following the publication of the New York Times article in Oct. 2017] and he had to vamoose. Some of his followers probably assumed that Berben was one of the dangerous characters Raniere alluded to as a threat to his safety. This is not likely true – I think Raniere ran to try to elude the FBI. In any event, he and all the NXIVM followers were aware that Berbens was around and not too easily intimidated. He might be ‘in your face’ at any minute.

Below are Berben’s reflections, written on two different dates, today and about two months ago – before and after the arrest of the fallen Vanguard. 


By Chris ‘Burbs’ Berben 


“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear”, James Neil Hollingworth.

It is a pretty fucked up and strange world we live in, but also a world with lots of beauty and adventure for us to pursue during our time here to grow and learn.

This adventure that I choose to pursue, or perhaps was chosen to pursue, taught me a lot about life and myself.  Am fortunate to have met some amazing people originating from all over the globe.

With hesitation, I plan to let Frank release a letter I wrote and shared with some ESPIANS/NXITERS on March 15th, 2018, what would have been my fiance’s 31st birthday.

There are some strange parallels between Keith Raniere and I.

Around the ages of 12-14, I took Taekwondo at Pai’s Taekwondo in Clifton Park.  The location at the time was at one of the office plazas off Route 9 in Clifton Park, perhaps the one where Raniere’s first MLM scheme was located while he was raping twelve-year old girls.  I too was an east coast martial arts champion [tongue in cheek.]  I found this photo when looking through old photos after my grandfather’s passing.  I was a bit humble and bashful even then.


Also excelled at logic and mathematics.  Was teaching myself high school mathematics in 6th grade.

At that time, they tested me and I was at an 11th grade math level, but only a third-grade reading level.  I definitely didn’t have the attention span to read more that a few paragraphs before forgetting what I was reading and my mind started drifting.  I took a couple years of college level Calculus in high school.

I ended up getting a scholarship to RPI, but didn’t attend because school had always been easy and I thought if I was challenged and had to learn to study that I would fail.  I was the first in my family to go to college, so in looking at my mentors who had degrees, I paid my own way to state school, and became a teacher.  My GPA was a little bit better than Raniere’s 2.36. I finished with a 3.25 GPA after concluding my last three semesters with a 3.80 that improved a poor freshman campaign.

My motivation to take on NXIVM wasn’t vengeful, although there may have been an undertone to it.  We need to be careful when fighting darkness, sometimes what we fight, we become.

Personally, I wasn’t going to let a man take advantage of women and children, many of whom I had met. Not when I knew where this was headed, with the past experience with my stepfather.

Secondly, my sister, niece, grandmother, cousins, and aunt live in the town and in some cases next door to where this was taking place.

Thirdly, many of the people I met who left I felt a spiritual connection too….  like I’ve fought along them in a past life before. It felt like I didn’t have much a choice but to help.

Finally, my motivation was to be a voice for those afraid to talk. There weren’t many men speaking against Keith, whereas there are many men who were part of the organization and left. I wanted to be an inspiration for those too scared or at least be a distraction to absorb NXIVM’s energy so those with real experiences to  could safely tell their stories.

How apropos that my first ayahuasca journey was the day Keith was arrested in Mexico.  I didn’t become aware of the arrest until the next day as I turned all communication and electronic devices off that day.

While hesitant to let Frank release the letter [below] I wrote, I am hopeful that future friends and employers will understand my mindset and motivation as I embarked on this fight.  As a former teacher, and I suppose still a teacher, [we are all teachers, and need to be careful of the lessons we teach the world] I hope this letter can motivate others to choose light over darkness and be courageous.

“We have no right to abruptly halt peoples’ lives before they have lived out their karma…. They will suffer greater retribution if we let them live….” Pg76 Many Lives Many Masters, Dr. Brian Weiss.


3-15- 2018

Hello my friends and Expian warriors,

I feel this letter is a bit overdue as it has been on my mind for several weeks. However, be prepared for a lengthy explanation and journey.

Like many of you, my life and mind have endured and conquered many obstacles over the years.  As challenging as 2017 was, it was a year that taught me a shit ton about people, myself, motivations, my mind, honesty, integrity, morality, and spirituality.  It was a year filled with challenges as well as growth.

First, I must set the stage of how I got to where I did and then how I reconciled where I am today.

I was always a mama’s boy growing up. At the age of 10, my father went to rehab for his alcohol and drug abuse and it was him I blamed for what happened. I was left in a house with someone who was still using and throwing parties. I remember getting myself up for school, making my own food and bringing my own lunch. I remember feeling depressed and suicidal for the first time. I remember loading a shot gun and keeping it in my bedroom while I watched my mother fraternizing with other people in the backyard.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized that the sacrifice my dad made by going to rehab and “abandoning” us was courageous and for the good of him and his kids.

I was probably around the age of 12 when Kevin MacGilfrey entered my life.  At some point my mom got knocked up and fled to Florida, since Kevin was wanted for robbery in NYS; no saying goodbye to her other two kids. After a few months, they came back to NY.

Sometime about the age of 14, I moved in with Kevin and my mother in Latham, NY for a couple of months. At one point there was a physical altercation between him and my mother. The altercation escalated and he proceeded to go outside and was about to take an ax to their car. For some reason I saw chef knives, that my mother may have grabbed. I went outside and tackled him. I was about 5’3” 100 lbs at the time. He was 5’9’ and 185 lbs. We tussled; the ax fell to the ground. I picked up the ax and chased him down the driveway, ultimately taking an overhead swing. I remember him stumbling backwards, his bright blue eyes locking with mine and them opening up, almost bulging out of their sockets, as the head of log ax came down aimed straight for his head. He raised his left forearm and by some luck, the ax was deflected to the ground. He continued his stumble out of the driveway muttering something, but ultimately leaving. I remember a gasp and a yell from neighbors to my right who witnessed the altercation.

The next day, my mother let him back in the house and Kevin apologized and said he respected me for sticking up or my mom. Needless to say, the ax and other possible weapons were locked away. Things were kosher for a couple weeks until he and my mom robbed me of a coin collection my grandfather had given me so that they could buy drugs. When I discovered this, I trashed their house and moved in with my grandparents.

I eventually went to Oswego State to be a teacher, like my role models who actually had degrees.  Towards the end of my second semester at Oswego, my mom and Kevin drove out to tell me that the “slutty” 15 year old babysitter was upset that Kevin rejected her advances and was spreading lies that he had sex with her. I believed them for a short time.

Ultimately Kevin was convicted of two counts of 3rd degree rape and sodomy and endangering the welfare of a minor. I feel for my sister and her friends that were subjected to this creep. I feel relief that this occurred in the late 90s before the internet, so the children affected could keep a secret. But ultimately, I wondered how lives would have been changed that day had the ax hit its intended target, or if my mom had not let that man back into our lives.

In 2016, Kevin took his own life after a police pursuit in Kentucky.

During the summer of 2001, my sister was in an abusive relationship.  I went after this coward – David Mullins – as well.  We were both arrested. Fortunately I received a conditional discharge that cleared my record after six months.  After he was released, he vandalized my new convertible mustang and my sister got back with him for a short time.  I didn’t talk to my sister for a few weeks but ultimately she woke up and left him.  In 2012, the day after Christmas, David also took his own life.

All of this pales in comparison to the most challenging circumstance I ever had to overcome.  On April 15, 2014 I found my finance and soulmate after she had passed away from what we believe was a brain aneurysm that occurred approximately 36 hours earlier.  In an instant my life changed; what was important in life no longer became important. I had become a Certified Financial Planner working in the greater NYC area helping people save and invest for their retirement goals and dreams.  But what is the point of saving so much and following the stock market, when you could die tomorrow and not have enjoyed today?

Chris Berben confronted NXIVM members about their membership in DOS.

Ultimately, a plant helped save my life.  Cannabis has always been in and out of my life since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I realized its medicinal benefits and started growing that I realized it wasn’t just a recreational drug.  I would be excited to come home from work and see how my plants were doing.  Cannabis helped me eat when I didn’t have an appetite, laugh when all I wanted to do was cry, and sleep when the nightmares kept me awake.  I spent some time growing and then moved to Colorado to invest and be part of a company out there.

My involvement in the industry was an awakening to the morality of honesty, justice and the selfishness of many humans.  I was a bit naive entering an industry many view as a new and fledgling.  However, it is an industry that has been around forever but because of ignorant laws, it has involved many individuals attracted to deception and not following the rules.  I decided it wasn’t the right fit for me; each time I needed to lie, I felt like a piece of my soul died.  I also felt the pull of coming back to Albany as my grandfather was ill and passed away two weeks after I returned.

It was two days after my return to Albany that NXIVM entered my life.  Despite the attempted recruitment by a cult member whose leaders lie, manipulate, and torture women and children, I learned a lot about my outlook and motivations because of the encounter.

Keith Raniere must have had a lot of trauma growing up as well.  As a coward, he chooses to take that anger out on women and children.  I chose to take it out on abusive men, at bars, and at the ice hockey rink.  However, the dark place that I went to does not make me much better than him.  I rationalized wanting his life to end as a noble venture to prevent followers from being further victimized and from others being victims in the future.

I had thought the life lesson that I had learned from my prior life experiences was that I could have stopped my siblings’ babysitter from being raped had I ended my stepfather’s life when I had the chance.


Raniere inside the police vehicle which took him from Mexico to Texas where he was arraigned.

However, the life lesson was that karma is real and eventually it catches up to those who abuse others.  I believe that our bodies are a vessel for our spirit to learn many life lessons and taking someone else’s life will only postpone the karma and lessons they will ultimately receive.  I would much rather have his karma catch up to him in this lifetime than for us to have to chase after him in the next life.  What Raniere’s running to Mexico has told me though, like David Mullins, and Kevin MacGilfrey, is that Keith Raniere is a coward and will probably choose the easy way out as his karma catches up.

I have also realized that although I lost one soulmate, that I have many spirit warriors.  People that I have met because of NXIVM and that I feel like I probably have known before.  I am grateful to have made so many new friends and learned as much as I have the last few years.

Life is challenging and throws at us many obstacles to conquer.  It is our mission to choose light over darkness…. To continue to better ourselves and leave the world a better place than we found it… To find happiness helping others find their happiness.

Shortly, I am off to South America to take part in an ayahuasca ceremony and hopefully leave behind a lot of the anger and sadness that I have buried all these years.

Peace and Love,


About the author

Frank Parlato


Click here to post a comment

Please leave a comment: Your opinion is important to us! (Email & username are optional)

  • You need to have the courage to tell the media and the FBI what you know about NXIUM, not just a sympathetic and understanding community.

  • Much respect for your willingness to step up and call out bs and abuse! And I hope continued growth and healing for your heart and spirit.

  • Always on side with someone who had to struggle through an education no family was interested in, or expected you to gain. My story too Chris, it took a long time and several catastrophic decisions before barging into a University, and thats why I take such a pride in my teaching job and continuing ed. Way to go esteemed colleague! It really is about choosing the light and leaving your portion of the world in a better state than you found it. Take care of yourself with the Aya. Write a book, yours is a compelling story.

  • Alone we are weak. Together, WE ARE STRONG.

    So, let’s keep the pressure up. And let’s keep telling the story.

    We will dismantle NXSCUM…one crook at a time!

  • Chris is a decent guy who I immediately liked when we crossed paths. My wish for him is to find a 420 friendly, meat loving lady who has never had any Espian ties 🙂 Chris had the cajones to drive right up to APROPOS and get those money shots of Allison, Sara, et al leaving coaches summit. But the battle did take a toll on him, because he threw his heart and sole into it and it did impact some relationships . We ourselves, made a deal to remain friends and not talk about NXIVM stuff.

    As for me, I am sure my identity will surface in the not to distant future.

  • I’m sure I was labelled a suppressive too for speaking out against this cult even if only behind an alias and I’m fairly certain whatever I said had an impact due to some of the negative reactions towards me that I had received.

  • Good on you for speaking out. It takes tremendous courage, and I hope you are treated with respect by the people who choose to read your story and comment here.
    I also hope it helps your continued healing. I wish you the best.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

IMDb — Frank Parlato,_Jr.

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083