Today, the public knows that Nxivm is a criminal enterprise.
Five high-ranking members of the enterprise have already pleaded guilty to felony charges. And its leader, Keith Alan Raniere, faces trial in little more than a week.
But, back in the day, when only a handful were trying to expose Raniere and his chief lieutenant, Clare Webb Bronfman, Barbara Bouchey was fighting almost alone.
She endured at least six civil lawsuits filed by NXIVM and/or the Bronfmans. Those lawsuits were backed by Bronfman millions. These were wars of attrition, terror by litigation, directed by Raniere, where they outspend you a thousand to one. They hire disreputable, corrupt attorneys; shysters who don’t care about justice – and who will do anything they’re asked to do, regardless of whether it’s ethical or legal. Billable hours is their only goal.
Imagine being up against even one of these giant lawsuits. She had six, in different states, with different lawyers. She won too. All of the lawsuits were dismissed with no findings of wrongdoing against her. But it cost her all her savings and years of energy and effort and stress to defend herself.
Clare and Sara Bronfman, those ill-born wastrels, those two demented fools born of the same parents, grown demons, also filed a complaint against her with the Certified Financial Planning Ethics Board in an attempt to remove her business license. In other words, while they were suing the hell out of her, they were simultaneously trying to take away all her income. That too failed.
Then there were at least five attempts to have law enforcement arrest Barbara on bogus extortion charges. That went nowhere. She did not extort Raniere. All she did was ask for the money Keith owed her – that and her rightful commissions.
And remember, although she did not extort Raniere, false allegations didn’t stop law enforcement, when Bronfman millions backed an indictment, in that cesspool known as the Capital Region of New York.
Yes, though she won each time, Barb was punished again and again. Her life was shattered. She had to look over her shoulder. She never knew when the next shoe would drop.
She, who was once his lover, got the brunt of Keith’s hatred and Clare’s lust for punishing others. Clare, I suppose, went after Barb in part to please her master – and in part because she loved to hurt others. The secret of Clare Bronfman – and of Keith Raniere’s manipulation of her – is that she was like a bad guard dog. She could serve only her master – but she loved to bite people – and needed little excuse and prompting from her master to be sicced on anyone.
The story of Barb and Nxivm is a sad one, pathetic in ways. But it is also heroic. She trusted Raniere and was fooled by him and, at the same time, she thought there was something good in this group. In it, she found a family. She described the community of Nxivm – of Nxivm Village in Clifton Park – as, at one time, kind of a Camelot.
I am not talking about whether she knew there were 3 or 12 other women in his harem – or how she trusted Keith, or how he lied and tricked her into signing her commodity account over to his control as an authorized trader – and how, because she trusted him, she wound up losing $1.6 million of her own money on margin calls.
Remember, it was her money. She didn’t lose other people’s money. No, not at all. That’s a matter of public record.
Barbara Bouchey helped build Nxivm. She recruited hundreds because she believed in it, and was the social engineer of much of what was good, or could have been good in the community of Nxivm – like volleyball and social gatherings and V-Week.
Indeed, if you took the V out of V-Week, it might have been a fine gathering of people on retreat who, deep down, wanted to do good – but were mistaken in their choice of a leader.
In 2009, Barb left with eight other women – and this began the crack in the walls of Nxivm. She was, in a sense, the Coriolanus of Nxivm. When she was with them, they prospered. When she was against them, they gradually fell.
Maybe Nxivm would still be around if Keith would have let Barb go quietly. He may be, in fact, one of the world’s least competent problem solvers. He is certainly one of the world’s best problem creators. When he tried to create problems for Barb, she fought back. And it wound up hurting him and those who followed him.
She fought back just by defending herself – and defending yourself is fighting – it is not surrender. She could have surrendered. She could have gone quietly. But she would not do that. She demanded what was hers – the return of the money he swindled from her – some $1.6 million – that he had promised to pay back and had been promising for years to pay back – and she demanded the commissions she rightfully earned.
Unlike the coward, she boldly left. She confronted Raniere first. Filmed him even, as she addressed her concerns. Gave him a chance to acknowledge what he had done and to take corrective action. He wouldn’t.
Then she told him she was leaving and put it in writing.
it was then that he went after her with lawsuits and attempts to criminalize her simple desire for closure. Of course, his strength came from the evil Bronfman sisters who funded this. They knew it was him who had blown through their millions in bad and dishonest investments and legal wars. But those two idiot sisters joined Raniere in attacking Barbara and lent their then good name toward her destruction.
It backfired. Barb withstood not only Raniere and Nxivm but the Bronfman name and fortune. Yet, in reality, Barb was their true friend.
I well remember her speaking to me about her concerns – back in 2007 – almost a year and a half before she left – about the Los Angeles real estate deal – and how truth was more important than defending Raniere – which it seems Nancy Salzman and others were well prepared to do. They wanted to cover up for Keith, but Barb wanted the truth discovered and helped me with important information concerning that project that helped me recover some $26 million in real estate for Bronfman – for which Raniere never forgave me.
In the end, I think Barb would have had a good chance at surrendering to Raniere and disappearing quietly by simply giving up her request for the return of her money and turning over some 17 boxes of evidence to Bronfman and Raniere. Most people probably would have done that. She chose to stand and fight.
Through it all, she remained a gracious woman, gentle with people. Not vicious. Quite welcoming. Most forgiving. Among those who fought, she fought as hard as anyone. In many ways, she was one of the most pivotal players.
Some are fond of telling and retelling their narratives – rewriting a little more each time – of how they fought and survived. Barbara’s story remains consistent. She made mistakes, she admits it. She was fooled. But she chose to leave and did it boldly. Her leaving was proactive. She did not slither away like some – but left and took eight women with her – the Nxivm 9 – in 2009.
And through the lawsuits leveled against her, she brilliantly revealed colossal revelations – stupendous facts of depravity and mind-boggling lunacy, idiocy, cupidity perpetrated by Raniere and Bronfman.
The world was put on notice that this was a dangerous group by Barbara Bouchey in stunning and exquisite detail. In story after story in the Albany Times Union, the New York Post, the Albany Metroland, Vanity Fair, and others, the truth got out.
Three years before James Odato came out with his series on the Secrets of Nxivm, Barbara Bouchey was out there pitching. And, of course, she was one of the critical, on the record sources for Odato for his 2012 series.
Because of her, in large part, Nxivm recruitment ended in the Albany area and in America on any meaningful scale. They still had active recruiting in Mexico and because of Sarah Edmondson’s vivacious and trustworthy personality, they still had active recruiting in Vancouver. But in the US, recruitment all but died when Bouchey left.
Not only because she was the heart and soul of what was good about Nxivm – and a top recruiter – but because her fight – which they spent millions on to thwart – revealed to the world that Nxivm was dangerous – not only kooky and bizarre but dangerous and wildly irrational. And Google then was coming into its own.
That is not to say that there were no stories online before her lawsuits became public. But when she was added to what Joe O’Hara, Toni Natalie, and Rick Ross were doing, it caught fire. Anybody connected to the internet could quickly find out what Nxivm was about – via the legal fights with Barbara Bouchey. She was a game changer.
And let us not forget she worked with that mastermind of strategy, another deadly Nxivm enemy, Joe O’Hara – and she worked with Kristin Keeffe – to get information – which she intelligently introduced on the public record.
She went time and again to law enforcement to try to gain their interest. But in corrupt Albany and in the Northern District – law enforcement was not interested in going up against the Bronfman sisters’ wealth.
Instead, Barbara got indicted on a bullshit criminal computer trespassing charge. She fought and fought hard and, of course, she won. The case was dismissed against her and Joe and Toni Natalie.
For my own part, as much as anyone else, Barb, directly and indirectly, helped reveal dirt and crimes about Raniere. The early Frank Report – before I broke the branding story in June 2017 – relied heavily on court documents – Barb’s revelations in depositions and court filings – to unravel the criminal and morally bankrupt enterprise led by Bronfman-Raniere.
During that bleak period when she was under indictment, Barb’s persistence also paid off. Who will ever forget – of those of us who fought the three-headed Bronfman/Bronfman/Raniere monster – how she and Kristin Keeffe laid out the very blueprint of criminal charges against Nxivm – in a recording and transcript that Barb filed in the computer trespass case.
When the charges were ultimately dropped against Barb, they were also dropped against Joe O’Hara and Toni Natalie.
And it was, of course, wickedness to charge them, and the law firm of O’Connell and Aronowitz, with their curious connections to the Albany County District Attorney, ought to be investigated – as should the New York State trooper who made the arrests. They may have suborned perjury.
In the end, the criminal case was dismissed against Barb because Clare perjured herself. She lied about where the computer servers were located in order to get jurisdiction. But, for Clare, lawsuits and perjury are synonymous. In every lawsuit against Barb, there was always Bronfman perjury.
Barbara was the brunt of as much Bronfman perjury and hostility as anyone living. And ironically, now, her former lover and erstwhile teacher, Keith Alan Raniere, is in jail. Bronfman may be headed there shortly [although don’t count on it].
Barb is free to live her life without fear of the Bronfmans or Raniere.
Of course, there are still the false Mexican extortion charges likely pending against her. It goes without saying that Barb [and indeed any Nxivm enemy] should never travel to Mexico.
The moral of the story is that those victims who refuse to give up may one day get vindication and justice. Barb is a victim. But unlike many victims, she fought back and transcended her role as victim to become an avenger.
As we think about the history of Nxivm, and who is who and what happened, I think we ought to give credit to Barbara Bouchey for enduring, and her role in the fight.
This much is fact: She came into Nxivm trying to do good; she stayed loyal until she realized Keith was incorrigible. She left honestly and not through the back door – and afterward, she went through the wringer and managed to survive. And did more.
She was in the arena. The doer of deeds. Marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strove valiantly. And, in the end, prevailed.