By: J.J. O’Hara
This is Part 11 of a series of articles that I am writing about the pending prosecution of Frank Parlato (Frank’s trial is scheduled to start on May 19th). As usual, readers are encouraged to ask questions – which I will endeavor to answer on a timely basis.
As I mentioned in my last post about this case, one of the more troubling aspects about it is that the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York (WDNY) had been provided clear and convincing evidence that Frank had not committed well before they chose to indict him.
In fact, some of that evidence had been presented to Federal prosecutors more than eight months before Frank was indicted.
The circumstances behind this scenario are a little unusual.
So, let’s go back to the beginning – and try to sort things out.
How the Investigation Began
Based in part on records that have been turned over to Frank in conjunction with the pre-trial discovery process – and in part on information that was provided to him by a variety of sources – it appears that the investigation of his business dealings began sometime in 2011.
But investigations like this don’t get started for no reason.
Usually, they get started because someone informs federal investigators and/or federal prosecutors about what they believe to be criminal activity – or those same federal officials learn about what they believe might be criminal activity from some media source.
In the case of Keith Raniere and the NXIVM crime syndicate, federal law enforcement officials in the Northern District of New York (NDNY) steadfastly refused to initiate any sort of investigation despite having been provided, by several individuals, with numerous details and documents regarding a whole raft of crimes concerning their operations – and despite the Times Union newspaper having published numerous award-winning articles about those same operations.
Indeed, it was not until prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) read about Raniere having established a secret society that blackmailed and branded women before any sort of federal investigation was ever undertaken into the NXIVM crime syndicate.
So, what was it that led WDNY investigators to begin investigating Frank Parlato’s business dealings?
Who went to federal officials and whispered in their ears about the supposedly criminal activities that Frank was engaged in?
We know for certain that one of those people was Clare Bronfman – who appeared before the local grand jury and perjured herself regarding her business dealings with Frank (Oddly enough, the intrepid prosecutors in the WDNY have treated Clare with the same “hands-off” policy that their counterparts in the NDNY afforded her – which is why she’s never been charged with perjury in either location even though she committed that same crime in both places).
We also believe that another likely candidate is a conman named Shmuel Shmueli who had managed to go 0-10 in the lawsuits that he had filed against Frank and one of Frank’s business partners, Larry Reger – and who was hell-bent on taking down Frank.
Interestingly enough, both Bronfman and Shmueli were represented by the same attorney – that being William F. Savino, whose ethics and height are equally challenged.
That would be the same William F. Savino who just happened to be good friends with WDNY Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce.
And that would be the same Anthony M. Bruce who just happened to be the local U.S. Assistant Attorney who was assigned to handle the investigation of Frank Parlato.
Gee, what are the odds of all those things randomly coming together at the same time?
Kind of like your odds for winning Saturday’s Powerball drawing.
Frank’s Response to the Investigation
Once he became aware that he was being investigated – which happened when the FBI contacted him on January 4, 2012, to tell him that the Bronfman sisters had filed a criminal complaint against him – Frank tried to be as cooperative as possible.
When he was asked for business records, he voluntarily provided them rather than forcing the feds to subpoena them.
And when the federal investigators indicated they would like to hear his side of what happened, Frank instructed his lawyers to readily and transparently share anything they had with them in an attempt to demonstrate that no crimes had been committed.
It was an unprecedented level of transparency.
Kind of the opposite of Keith Raniere who fled to Mexico with one of his baby mamas and their child – and who ordered the members of the gang he left behind not to cooperate at all with the EDNY investigators.
Once Frank was able to figure out what the federal investigators thought he had done wrong, he was confident that he could convince them they were mistaken.
So he had his attorneys – one of who had previously served as the U.S. Attorney for the WDNY and who had also been elected as New York State’s Attorney General – put together a detailed explanation of why he had established 15 companies and opened 50 bank accounts over the course of 12 years.
In essence, Frank was laying out his defense long before he was indicted.
It’s an unusual strategy – and not one that guilty parties tend to employ.
The Feds Response to Frank’s Transparency
In March 2015, Frank’s attorneys presented federal law enforcement officials with a 21-page analysis of the relevant facts concerning Franks’ business dealings.
But that didn’t convince Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce to back off. He was already committed to getting Frank Parlato indicted – and he wasn’t going to relent simply because there was evidence indicating that Frank had not committed any crimes.
For the next several months, Frank continued to provide documents and records to federal investigators.
And his attorneys continued to gather evidence to prove that their client had done nothing illegal.
In October 2015, Frank’s attorneys provided federal law enforcement officials with a 126-slide PowerPoint deck that refuted every one of the charges that federal prosecutors had indicated they were likely going to bring against Frank.
That same PowerPoint presentation also explained why federal law enforcement officials should release the $1 million escrow account that they had already frozen.
But Bruce and his colleagues didn’t care about the evidence that indicated Frank was innocent.
Evidence…Schmevidence…They were committed to prosecuting Frank – and there was no turning back.
If anything, Frank’s attempt to avert prosecution actually caused Bruce to realize that Frank was not going to roll over like most defendants he had dealt with over the years.
Frank would not accept any of the plea deals that had been offered to him – and said he would rather go trial than plead guilty to a crime he had not committed.
Bruce needed to stack the deck as much as he could in order to push Frank to the wall – and to ensure, as much as he could, that Frank would be convicted if the case actually went to trial.
And, thus, the original indictment of Frank Parlato contained 19 felony charges.
19 over-lapping, redundant and baseless charges.
But Bruce didn’t care if he could prove that Frank committed all those charges in a court of law.
That’s because Bruce knew that 97% of federal cases end up being resolved via a plea deal rather than going to trial.
And Bruce had another reason not to care about what would happen if Frank refused to give in – and actually went to trial.
It wasn’t going to be Bruce’s problem.
Having fulfilled his commitment to get Frank indicted, Bruce was going to retire as an Assistant U.S. Attorney – and go make some big bucks in the private sector.
In the next post about this case, I’ll detail some of the evidence that Frank’s attorneys presented to federal prosecutors before Frank was indicted.
And I’ll ask Frank Report readers to decide just how fair our criminal justice system is…
Previous posts in this series can be accessed at:
Part 1: The Buffalo News Raises Questions About Frank Parlato’s Case – More Detailed Analysis Needed