NXIVM Target, John Tighe: His Eye-Opening Story of Five-Year Stay at Devens Federal Prison

John Tighe

By: John Tighe


I must say that some unusual developments have taken place since I first started writing this series. Some people that I haven’t heard from for a while have reached back out to me. And I notice a different look in the eyes of people I don’t know, but who know who I am, when I stop for coffee at Uncommon Grounds.

I applaud Frank Parlato for reaching out to the NXIVM diehards for help in exonerating me, but I won’t hold my breath for that to happen because, according to them, I’m a demonic suppressive. I think hiding a brick of blow in my trunk and calling 911 is more their speed. But I digress…

Frank Parlato


Day #1

On July 21, 2015 – the day after my 58th birthday – I drove with my wife and family to Federal Medical Center (FMC) Devens, an “Administrative-Security” federal prison in Ayer, MA. To better explain, Devens is a medical treatment facility that houses all security levels of federal prisoners: i.e., from out-custody inmates to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber – and prisoners at every level in-between.

Federal Medical Center Devens

Outside the prison is a small prison camp. The prisoners there maintain the fields, ponds and inmate cemetery (Devens is also where many old inmates go to die).

Prior to reporting to FMC Devens, I had a nice lunch with my family. After that, we headed to the prison so I could turn myself in.

I can’t explain the mixture of feelings I went through as we neared the prison. Everyone was trying to be cheerful, but I was wondering if I would survive long enough to be with them again.

We went into the Administration building – and I told them who I was. The Correction Officer (CO) on duty – never call them “Guard” – said I had time to hug everyone good-bye (It was like a living funeral).  Then it was time for them to leave. Everyone was brave and no one cried.

Fort Devens

Once my family left, the CO handcuffed me and took me in. I had a bag with 10 empty prescription bottles – and paper copies and a DVD of my medical records. I was led through multiple locked steel doors to a dirty area that was the prison’s Receiving & Discharge (R&D) Unit.

I was told to strip – and asked if I wanted to donate my street clothes to inmates who would be released at some point in the future (I readily agreed to do that). Then I was given underwear, a T-shirt, and a giant orange jump suit.

Next, I was interviewed by a nurse. She was nice – and, when no one was around, she warned me: “You must fight for healthcare and your prescriptions. Be your own advocate, fight to live”.  Then she shut up when a CO came in to take me to the Special Housing Unit (SHU). Among inmates, the SHU is usually referred to as “the hole”, “solitary”, or “the pit”.

I was marched a half-mile through the compound – which is generally closed to all inmate movements except for 10 minutes every hour. Next, I went through another series of locked doors – where I was strip-searched again and locked in a dirty windowless cell for the next 11 days.


The Transitional Period

Throughout my stay in the SHU, cold food was shoved through a slot in the door three times each day. Once, I got a change of clothes – which required me to strip naked and shove my old clothes through the slot and wait for them to shove new ones in.

A typical breakfast for inmates in the SHU at most federal prisons 

A nurse came by one day to say they were working on verifying my meds. Finally, a case manager came and sent me to an eight -man cell, full of kids who were young druggies from Portland, Maine. They were genuinely nice and helpful – and I appreciated the information they shared with me about the “Devens Dos & Don’ts”.

Devens looks good from the outside. Inside, it’s a deteriorated old military base with broken toilets, bad heating, and all sorts of other mechanical and structural problems.

FMC Devens

My first cell was a good half-mile from the Chow Hall and the Clinic, with a large hill in between. Shortly after I arrived, my feet broke down from all the walking I had to do in my previously used prison boots. Thinking back on the advice the nurse had given me, I started to push for my meds – and to be assigned to a medical unit closer to the Chow Hall and the Clinic. Once my meds were approved, I also had to go to “Pill Line” three times a day – which was another long hike.


Medical Services at FMC Devens

The Chief Medical Officer was nicknamed “Dr. Death”. He was a one-legged, drunk POS.  Fortunately, he was too bad even for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP). One day after he fell down drunk, he was walked off the prison grounds with the help of two COs – and was never seen again.

Next, a young Mongolian doctor from the U.S. Public Health Services took over. He was very professional – and quickly moved me to a two-man cell in a medical building. He also took me off Pill Line – and made my prescriptions “self-carry”. He even went so far as to call my Oncologist back in Saratoga Springs, NY to get more details about my case (I had small bowel cancer with a re-section of my small intestines back in 2012).  After that consultation, he told me “Your complex medical condition is beyond the care level Devens can provide – and your care is being transferred to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston”. Although he was fired a couple of years later for lying about his accreditations, that man saved my life.


My First Prison Test

A few months later I had my first prison test. I got into it with a tough black gangster from South Boston. He warned me to stay out of the yard. So, of course, that night I went to the yard.

He saw me, marched across the field, and as I stood up from a bench, he deftly put a shank to my neck. At this point, I still had four and a half years to go and just didn’t give a shit.

I told him “Go ahead, you’ll be doing me a favor”.

I meant it and he knew it.

He smiled put the shank away and said: “You’re all right, white boy”.

We became good friends for the rest of my stay.


A Disastrous Christmas Eve

My next incident at Devens occurred on Christmas Eve 2015.

We had two-man cells that were locked from 10:00 PM until 6:00 AM.  Each cell had a toilet and a sink – and we had showers down the hall.

Unfortunately – and I previously mentioned – the entire Devens facility is a broken-down dump. Pipes break, sewage and sewer flies come up from the shower drains, toilets overflow and the only “plumbers” available to deal with these everyday problems are self-taught inmates.

So, on December 24, 2015, I was taking a shower when I heard a popping sound – and was suddenly hit with 190-degree water coming out of the showerhead. I jumped back – and fell naked onto the shower room floor.

Once I sat up, I could see that the skin on the top of my left foot was gone (I could actually see the bones in the foot – and a couple of toe bones too). And the skin on my left leg was peeling off like toilet paper.

I got some clothes on – and some inmates got a wheelchair for me. The unit CO wasn’t going to go near me – so a couple of friends took me to the Medical Unit, where it turned out all but one nurse had already left for the upcoming holiday.

The nurse wrapped all the burned areas as best she could. She requested authorization for an ambulance to take me to a hospital but no one who was working had the authority to approve such a request. So, she checked my burns one more time – and then went home at the end of her shift.

Christmas is not a good time to be in prison when you have a medical problem.

John Tighe photographed while in prison.

You can’t believe how much fluid you lose with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. I just lay in my bunk until the medical staff came back the day after Christmas. The staff all felt bad and sent me to a hospital, but it was too late. I already had a MRSA infection in my leg. I was burned, sick and infected – and the next two months became an endless string of IVs, burn dressings, and cleanings. I still have the scars, but eventually the burned areas healed.

Because I had shower flip-flops on when I was showering, there was some skin that didn’t get burned. So, when I got home, I had a flame tattooed on with the words “Burned to the bone”.

After all the drama surrounding my scalding shower, time seemed to go by a little faster.

I became good friends with several inmates – and, most important of all, my wife, friends, and family members came to visit me at least twice a month for the next five years.

John Tighe and his wife in Devens.


Some of the People I Met at Devens

While I was in Devens, there were over 1,000 inmates there.

But only about a hundred of us ever had visitors.  We were like a little club.

There were overpriced vending machines in the visiting area – but no one really cared about them. We were happy and content just to be able to sit with and talk with our family members and friends.

Because we were such a small group, I got to know some high-profile inmates this way.

For example, I was at the 100th birthday of John Franzese AKA “Sonny,” one of the gangsters in the movie “Goodfellows”. Yes, you read that right: his 100th birthday! “At one time, he was the oldest prisoner in the U.S. – and perhaps the whole world. He went home at 101 – and died a year later.

See the source image
John Franzese AKA “Sonny”

I also became good friends with billionaire Raj Rajaratnam. He was released before me and wrote a book about the BOP and DOJ called “Uneven Justice” – which I hope to review here on Frank Report at some point in the future.

Hardcover Uneven Justice: The Plot to Sink Galleon Book

I liked Peter Madoff [the brother of Bernie] and his wife until he asked if my wife could send his wife 10k. Once a con man, always a con man.

See the source image
Peter Madoff

And finally, Anthony Weiner. Yes, that Anthony Weiner! His father would visit with his son, but I never saw his wife, Huma, at Devens.

See the source image
Anthony Weiner


Day-to-Day Life at FMC Devens

Besides visits, I also went to Mass every Sunday with all the mobsters.

I read a lot and learned to navigate all the little social groups that exist in prison.

Throughout all my time at Devens, I continued to lose weight. So much so that at one point, they started giving me Ensure to drink every day.

Beth Israel (BI) Hospital had been treating me for thyroid cancer throughout the time I was at Devens. My thyroid was the first thing they cut out. But, unfortunately for me, the cancer had already spread to my liver.  Now I had metastatic liver cancer – and things weren’t looking good.

Then they got worse.

I had been living in the same unit for several years. I was well known and respected. I had my own chair in the TV-room, and I had gotten everyone in the unit to agree on a schedule for what would be on our TV.

Early in my stay, I had a run in with some Neo-Nazis (Some were members of the Aryan Brotherhood – and others were members of the Unforgiven – both hard-core prison gangs). They hid behind their pagan religion Asatru, whose White Nationalists worship Norse gods. They had swastikas and face tattoos and all the bad ass prison shit.

When they invited me to join, I told them I wasn’t interested. After that, they always held a grudge

A white guy named Scarface was moved into our unit. He was 45 years old and was a murderer who had been shot in the leg and needed an operation. He had also been stabbed seven times including a couple of times in his face.  On his third day with us, he was sent to the SHU for 60 days for threatening a nurse. A couple of days after he got out, he confronted me about the TV.

He walked up and went to change it. After I told him to “sit down,” he proceeded to read me his resume.

He had “killed three men, been stabbed 7 times, was a Nazi, and a bad motherfucker.

I looked at him and said, “That’s great – but I’m watching CNN”.

He sprang at me in a second. This was a real prison fight for my life. He had broken my jaw and one eye was closed. I head butted him as he screamed, he would kill me over and over.

Chairs were being thrown and we eventually fell out into the hall.

He kept hitting me in my side and I thought he might have a shiv.

Finally, all the noise attracted a CO – which is where I got lucky.

Old Scarface immediately turned his attention to the CO and screamed he would kill him.

Each CO has an emergency button – and this CO pushed his. As I fell back against a wall, COs came running from every corner of the prison.

They beat and pepper-sprayed Scarface until he was just curled up on the floor. Then they threw him into the SHU – and took me to the Medical Unit.

After a quick trip to the hospital for X-rays and treatment, they tossed me into the SHU for 60 days “pending investigation.”

Finally, they ruled I had acted in self-defense – which meant that I didn’t lose any of my “good time.”

Still, 60 days in the hole is a long time.


Beth Israel Hospital

Throughout much of my time at Devens, I was being taken to BI every few days. Each time, I was marched to R&D, stripped searched, and then chained-up with belly chains and shackles.

Beth Israel Hospital (Boston, MA)

Two COs – one of whom was armed – drove me the 37 miles to BI in a prison van like I was El Chapo.

I must have gone to BI more than a hundred times for various types of procedures and treatments: e.g., RFAs, MRIs and several surgeries (Per BOP policy, my family was never told when I was in the hospital).

Prior to one of the major surgeries I had at BI, I arranged to have my body sent home if I died so that I wouldn’t end up in the prison cemetery.

The staff at BI was always kind to me. I was chained every moment – even on the operating table. The only time I wasn’t chained was when I was having an MRI.

Despite what seemed like a hopeless case, I held on – and slowly started to get better.

Once I was back at Devens, I was always afraid I would end up in the basement – AKA Prison Hospice. Inmates would say “In the basement no one can hear you screaming”.

So many inmates died in the basement that once a month, we had a memorial service for them.

Three of my cellmates died – and I spoke for each one at their service.


COVID-19 Comes to FMC Devens

While I was sitting in the TV room in January 2020 and watching CNN, I heard about a new virus in China. A friend asked, “What do you think?” I answered “We’re fucked”

COVID started slowly at Devens – but the prison administration immediately started using it as an excuse to cut back on things.

Visiting was the first thing to be cut out. Then the Library, the yard, and finally Chow Hall.

Inmates got sick and began to die.

We were put in lockdown – which means we were in our cells at least 23 hours every day.

We had the same three meals every day: i.e., bran flakes and sour milk for breakfast; something warm for lunch; and for dinner, 4 slices of bread, 2 slices of slimy turkey bologna, and a piece of rotten fruit.

Notwithstanding the lockdown, more and more prisoners became infected – and we could see private ambulances coming onto the prison grounds almost every day to pick up inmates who needed to be hospitalized.

It was a scary time – and seemed to go forever.

Then the COs started getting sick – which resulted in staff shortages and 24-hour lockdowns for the inmates.


The End – and a New Beginning

Then in April, I was put in total lockdown – and transferred to the SHU. Except for a few trips to BI for follow-up testing and treatments, that’s where I was housed until I was released from Devens

Throughout this time, I had little communication with any prison staff – and no one could tell me exactly when I would be going home.

Finally, on July 8th, my discharge papers came through the slot in the door.

I was taken to R&D, given a pair of pants, some old sneakers, and a T-shirt – and then released to my wife and family.

I had fucking survived.

I left Devens and came back to a world being ravaged by a pandemic – and where it seemed that no one could agree on what day it was, let alone agree on what should be done to stop the spread of COVID.

I was the happiest man in the world.

And why not?

I was alive – and back with my wife and family – after spending five years in the wilderness.


Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series. 

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  • Let’s not forgot the guy writing this article was a child molester of a very young child.

    Devens is an upright facility, and ole boys is probably trying to set the grounds for a lawsuit.

    Moral of the story; don’t molest children.

    • Give me a break. There never even were accusations that I ever molested anyone. Complete bullshit as usual. Keep trying to make shit up

  • John- thank you for your writing. The whole situation lacks humanity and yet you write with so much. I have a question….For some unknown reason I remember Heidi commenting about you at the coffee shop and someone (a lady) trying to hand you her laptop and have it fixed or something like that? Can you clarify what that was about?

  • Why does evil exist in the world? This question has plagued some people for centuries. The Epicurean Dilemma is a famous response to it.

    Presuming John’s innocence and the reason for his imprisonment was actors in NXIVM, the question may arise as to why was John entrapped with child porn by Raniere, et al? Why was someone who was writing and fighting in a good cause affected by such injustice where he had to suffer the humiliation of a child porn charge and five years in jail as a non-guilty person?

    They say from some evil comes a greater good. Well, in this instance it seems to prove the case.

    John got medical treatment he otherwise couldn’t afford outside of prison. It would have cost insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars or more and they could have denied his treatment and he may have died during that time if he was outside of prison. Yes, he lost five years from his family, but perhaps he gained ten or fifteen years or more.

    And not only that, while in prison he got to see the one who trapped him brought to justice by others — Raniere’s own dumb self with the help of the government and others like Frank — for one of the exact same crimes he was found guilty of. Five years traded for 120 years of his enemy. Poetic justice.

    Some people are purified through trials and are vindicated and gain a greater sense of gratitude. Others persist in their evil without shame until the time for return is cut off and are eventually humiliated in this world.

  • The lengths that Raniere went to stop you and others, John, is amazing.

    The price you, your wife and your family had to pay just because you were writing about the Smelly Troy Troll.

    The energy and money that Raniere, Salzman and the Bronfmans put into attempting to shut people up is a head shaker.

    What they had to do to get an officer of the NY State Police to go along with switching your computers with the ones he turned over in your case blows the minds of so many.

    Was it money that bought off Rodger or did he step over the line with one or more of Raniere’s gal pals and that was caught on film?
    Money or blackmail – either way is bad.

    Your truth in this case is mind blowing, John, and one that needs to be told further than just the Frank Report.

    You were our HERO when we needed one.

    I’m sorry you had to go to prison over this.

    I hope Raniere doing 120 years makes you happy in some way. Not that it will ever give you back the five years you spent in prison.

    I’m glad you have your health and can hold your head up high.

    I wish there was a way to prove this happened and those who plotted this would get arrested and go to prison.

    I believe you’re innocent and have been all along.

  • John-

    It’s a testament to your inner strength, tenacity, and the love between you and your wife that you made it out of hell.

    I don’t think anyone can ever truly fathom what you went through. Being in a dark depressing place with cancer must have been pure torture. It’s amazing you didn’t die of infection/ sepsis.

    You crafted an excellent piece!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I believe I speak for everyone – we are pulling for you!

  • Thank you, John, for putting your memories (good and bad) on record for posterity. You have a talent for putting across salient points without moaning or self-pity – even with all you’ve gone through. Frank Report (and now your writings) have shown me a real picture of the justice system/law enforcement, personalities, etc. in the States that I would not be privy to, as a non-us citizen. God bless, and may you enjoy your life and your family for a long time to come and continue writing about your experiences.

  • My name is Sam Bent. I was in Devens too. I hung out with the Boston guys (like the old man aka Fitz) and the Italians from NY and did some work for the lawyer Eddie Boyer.

    This guy is a chomo. He admits it himself in his court documentation. Tighe admitted to storing more than 400 videos and roughly 40,000 images depicting minors, including some that were prepubescent, engaged in sexually explicit poses or conduct.

    • How does a prisoner know what someone admits in court documentation?

      Sounds like your are a Nxer or one of those who set him up.

    • Sam, I’m glad you made it out of Devens alive although I don’t know you.

      I pled to two counts of possession of child porn and one for receipt. As you know, the Feds can then call a press conference and say what they want. I have no idea what was on computers I never saw.

      I have seen them call an 18-year-old crack head a major east coast drug kingpin. Keeps the public satisfied they have a grip on crime while, in reality, they don’t have a clue

  • These are awesome articles.

    Stuff, btw, can so easily be planted on anyone’s computer, it’s not funny. All one has to do is download the wrong attachment and bam!

    Your articles are human and illuminate shadows we don’t like to peak into.

    I might also state that corruption up here is widespread. There are multiple ways “they” get rid of people who expose the system.

    If I ever see you in UG, I will certainly say Hi.

    I have recently fallen in love with Wired near the Spas off Avenue of the Pines.

    (and no, I’m not Alanzo)

  • John’s medical treatment must have been very expensive: probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe a million…. That’s probably the reason the BOP fired the doctor that saved his life by securing this treatment. John was “lucky”: another doctor could have done nothing and that would have been the end for him….

    • BOP will add 10%-20% to the actual cost and just include it in their annual budget. Literally no one cares. I was at Devens; and I too had a 5-year sentence. The difference was I was not a sex offender.

  • What a story. 5 years in prison. Was it easier to endure the last 2 years when you learned in 2018 Raniere was arrested and in prison too?

  • Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Was an earnest and exacting job done by law enforcement to identify and find “the child” in the “child pornography”?

    I’m inquiring because with Raniere involved and his penchant for creating child porn and porn in general… Ya gotta wonder.

    Were they (shudder) some child that Keith knew? Some victimized kid Keith preyed upon in the Rhiannon days?

    The poor child. And if the victim and origins of the child pornography were NOT investigated, that seems suspicious. And a missed opportunity for justice.

    Did law enforcement simply destroy the child porn but pursue the crime no further?

    It seems it would have been archived. The FBI can’t always quickly trace the origins of child pornography, but it does maintain an internal data base.

    Sometimes, investigators begin to recognize similar architecture or backgrounds, light fixtures, and other pieces of intelligence they can piece together.

    They really wouldn’t just toss it in the garbage without looking for origin patterns and identifying clues…would they?

    So. Many. Questions.

    • Are you talking about the 400 videos he ADMITS to having, or the 40,000 pictures he admitted to having? If someone really wanted to set him up, they would not need to upload that much…

  • I really hope you stick around, John! At the very least, please pop in from time to time in the comments section. I’m waiting until all the articles in the series are published before asking questions. Your writing is awesome.

    We’ve been stuck reading drivel from that motherfucker Frank for years now so it’s nice to get some new writing in here that isn’t from some whackos that Frank lets guest write sometimes. I do like KR Claviger’s writing though (it’s speculated that Claviger is unlikely to be a he, is probably a she, or possibly a they – please find out if you can)

  • Uhhh, if anyone skipped straight to the comments, you need to go back up, read this article, and make sure you haven’t missed one word of John’s other articles.

    Again, John – thank you for these articles. They are incredible. I can’t wait for the next one.

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.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

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 premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com