By Joe O’Hara
Most of the readers on Frank Report already know many of the highlights – and lowlights – of Keith Raniere’s life. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to look back – and try and figure out exactly when he went bad.
Was he born that way – or did something cause him to become such an evil and ruthless person?
The Early Years
The basic facts of his childhood have been fairly well-documented (Some sources cite different dates for some of the events in Keith’s life – but we’ve tried to use the ones that form a cohesive fact pattern):
– He was born on August 26, 1960 – which means that he’ll turn 59 before he finds out how many years he’ll be spending in federal prison.
– His father is James Raniere, a man who worked as a Madison Avenue advertising executive. Although James is still alive, he reportedly is not on Keith’s “Approved Visitors List” at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). He also did not attend Keith’s recent trial.
– His mother, Vera, was a ballroom dancer – who, according to James, “drank more than she should have”. Keith actually described her to his friends as “an alcoholic”.
– Despite her alleged drinking problem, Vera ended up with custody of Keith when she and James divorced in 1968. Thus, Keith ended up living mostly with his mother from the time he was 8 years old until she died when he was 18.
– He attended a Waldorf school from the late 1960s until the early 1970s – at which point he transferred into a public junior high school.
– He graduated from Rockland County Day School in June 1978, about two months prior to his 18th birthday.
Barbara Bouchey, one of Keith’s many “partners” over the years, recounted several aspects of his childhood – all of which she claimed she was told by James.
According to Barbara, James told her: “What we did is we told Keith about how gifted and how intelligent he was. And he said it was almost like a switch went off. And suddenly overnight he turned into like Jesus Christ. After that, he was superior and better than everybody like he was a deity. He said it was that [snaps] dramatic and that profound; he said it went right to his head.”
Barbara also recounted a story that was told to her by James, who, in turn, was telling a story that he heard from Vera – about how Keith dealt with young girls when he was 13 years old: “Dozens of young girls were calling the house and [Vera] was overhearing his conversations with them where he was telling every single woman, every single girl the same thing: ‘I love you. You’re the special one. You’re the important one in my life and I love you’.”
So, what actually happened with Keith Raniere between the ages of 8 and 18 when he was living all alone with his mother?
Did their relationship affect how he would treat women in his adult life?
Was it her slender, waif-like frame that set the standard that he would come to impose on women?
Or did Raniere’s relationship with his mother somehow set him on the course to truly hate women at a level that few men have done?
The RPI Years
Up until the time that the prosecution in his recently-concluded trial exposed the fact that Raniere was, at best, an “average” student at RPI, many believed his claim that he was an outstanding student there.
I always found it odd that “the world’s smartest man” did not pursue graduate work – and even more so that he took a job with New York State government – when he graduated from RPI (In what can only be considered another in the long list of ironies that lie ahead for him, Keith actually worked as a computer programmer for the New York State Division of Parole).
While he was at RPI, Keith met and became lovers with Pamela Cafritz, a “Trust Fund Baby” who became his primary wing-woman until her death in 2016.
But all we really have is anecdotal information about his years at RPI – which spanned the period from 1978 to 1982.
One of his former roommates claimed that he tried to get Keith to teach him some of his championship-level judo moves but Keith would never do so.
Another classmate recounted Keith’s interest in the RPI student theater group.
No professor from his RPI years has ever gone “on the record” about Keith’s performance as a student at RPI.
But that 2.26 GPA – and all those Fs and Ds he earned along the way – make it pretty clear that Keith was not a brilliant or gifted student
The Entrepreneurship Years
While he was still working for the NYS Division of Parole, Keith started working for Amway, a multi-level marketing company that many people believe is a pyramid scheme.
About this same time, he also became very interested in Scientology and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
In 1990, at the age of 30, Keith founded Consumers’ Buyline, Inc. (CBI), a knock-off of Amway, that offered consumers the opportunity to buy goods for below-market prices.
In 1991, Keith met Toni Natalie and her Hubby #3 while he was doing a CBI promotional event in Rochester, NY.
Natalie and her husband joined CBI – and quickly became top sellers for the company in the Rochester area.
A year later, Toni and her husband were invited to attend a CBI awards ceremony in Clifton Park, NY.
While there, Keith “cured” Toni of her smoking habit via a 2-hour session that, according to Toni, involved him touching various “trigger points” in her hands.
Shortly after returning to Rochester, Toni began having long, intimate phone conversations with Keith.
Within the next year, she ditched Hubby #3 and moved, along with her adopted son, to be with Keith in Clifton Park.
Although she would remain there for eight years, her description of that time period differs greatly from what others report.
Toni indicates, for example, that she and Keith were a “couple” who lived a normal life, sharing a home, having regular meals together, and jointly raising her adopted son.
Other women who were there at the time, say that Toni was just one of the numerous women in his harem and that she knew it.
According to numerous sources, for the first four years of Toni and Keith’s relationship, Keith lived full time at 3 Flintlock Lane with four other women. Toni moved into a condo right behind 3 Flintlock and became another member of his harem.
Keith would visit Toni – for years – by walking from the backyard of his home at 3 Flintlock where he lived with his other inner-circle women to Toni’s house.
Then, one happy day, Toni finally was able to capture the #1 position in the harem –Keith began spending most nights with her at her condo. But that changed after a few months – and he went back to living at 3 Flintlock Lane with the other women. He spent every night at Flintlock and only went back to Toni’s home to sleep during the day.
According to multiple sources who were there at the time, Keith spent less than three months actually living with Toni during the eight years of their relationship.
They say she was not, as she claims, his “girlfriend” for eight years – but rather just for a few months.
For the first four years of their eight year relationship, Toni was one of the secondary members of the harem. For the last four years, she was the queen of the harem, much like Barbara Bouchey was in the early 2000s.
“She was definitely the ‘Cuck Queen’ of the harem after CBI closed and until Nxivm got underway [about 4 years],” said one woman who was there at the time.
The idea that she did not know about the other women is nonsensical, say women who were also part of his harem at the time.
“What Toni says now to save face, or put in her book, is an absolute lie,” said one of the women, whose name is well known to Nxivm members. “She and Pam used to say that they both would have Keith’s babies together. Toni would have a girl baby and Pam would have a boy baby. It’s a terrible lie that she is promoting about herself that she was Keith’s girlfriend. How could she think she was in a monogamous relationship when he spent every night away from her home?”
The shutdown of CBI – and Raniere’s Next Venture
Although CBI enjoyed a great deal of initial success, it eventually drew the attention of numerous State Attorneys General and two federal agencies – all of which deemed it to be a pyramid scheme.
By the fall of 1996, the company was forced to shut down operations – and Keith, along with Pam Cafritz, was forced to sign a “Consent Decree”, agree to pay $40,000 to the New York State Attorney General, and promise to never again engage in a pyramid scheme in New York State.
But Keith didn’t miss a beat.
In the midst of the meltdown of CBI, Keith had already set up his next business enterprise.
This one was named National Health Network, Inc. – and was set up in Nevada in January 1995 in the name of Toni Natalie (Toni was, in fact, listed at the company’s President, Secretary, and Treasurer in the official records of the Secretary of State for the State of Nevada).
National Health Network utilized the same pyramid scheme model that Raniere had used to structure CBI. The only real difference was that this time he had someone other than himself serving as the face of the organization.
In addition to selling memberships to people who wanted to buy health foods, supplements and vitamins at discounted prices, National Health Network also opened a health food restaurant in Saratoga Springs, NY.
But the restaurant operation was short-lived – and resulted in allegations of bank fraud when high-end restaurant equipment that had supposedly been purchased and leased with borrowed funds could not be found. [We’ll have more on that story at a later date].
Raniere Moves on Again
In 1997, Raniere met Nancy Salzman when she came to the National Health Network’s commercial operation in Clifton Park seeking treatment for a digestive problem she was experiencing.
And just as he had purportedly cured Toni Natalie of her smoking habit, Keith was also able to solve Nancy’s upset tummy.
Shortly thereafter, Keith and Nancy developed the curriculum for NXIVM – and began to recruit students.
Although Toni apparently claims in her upcoming book that she was “patient zero” for the NXIVM curriculum, others who were there at the time say that is not the case. They claim she was just one of the participants in some of the original training modules.
On the other hand, Toni was one of the top recruiters for the fledgling NXIVM operation – which earned her the coveted Nxivm green sash for her recruiting efforts.
By 1998, trouble hit the harem.
Toni had been supplanted by Nancy Salzman as the queen of Raniere’s attention – which led her to send her son back to Rochester to live with his father.
A year later, she skipped out of town along with the guy who had been hired to be the head cook at the then-defunct health food restaurant (He would become Hubby #4 shortly after his divorce was finalized).
Raniere was very displeased with Toni – and pursued her relentlessly when she filed for bankruptcy (The case went on for several years).
But his real attention was devoted to building NXIVM – which, with Nancy as the face of the organization, was able to make inroads into the New York State Department of Health and into several well-known companies.
Over the course of the next two decades, NXIVM grew from a fledgling executive training program to a full-blown cult with a secret sub-group whose members were branded with Raniere’s initials.
Along the way, Keith recruited Clare and Sara Bronfman – and blew through as estimated $250-$300 million of their money.
At one point, he had all the money he would ever need, an incredible amount of political influence and power with law enforcement agencies, and a harem of 20-30 women.
And then he picked a fight with Frank Parlato…
Keith Raniere – always one-step ahead of everyone else… until he wasn’t.
Viva Executive Success!