Michael Volpe interviewed me on Monday about CT Family Court; about the case of Karen Riordan, the homeless mother whose husband stole her inheritance and used it to buy custody of their children at the CT Family Court marketplace; the story of Kelly Grohs, whose children were sold by lawyers at the same, detestable market to the wealthy widow of her husband; and the notorious Keith Raniere of NXIVM fame and his, what some say, quixotic attempt at getting freedom by accusing the FBI of tampering with evidence in his case.
But mainly, it was about the practice of the CT Family Court of literally selling children to affluent fathers.
Michael Volpe is a freelance investigative journalist with notable successes. Among them is his 2016 investigation of Memphis lawyer Keith Dobbs which led to a 67 count indictment. His hard-hitting articles freed a 37-year-old former Army Ranger from a corrupt guardianship. His book, “Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall,” conclusively showed that prosecutors framed former Chicago Heights Mayor Chuck Panci and two of his associates.
Here is an edited and truncated version of our interview.
Volpe: Independent investigative journalist Frank Parlato joins me as the latest guest on my podcast. Recently, Frank has dedicated a lot of time on his website to the Connecticut Family Court system, but he is also widely credited with breaking the NXIVM story and being instrumental in helping to put its leader, Keith Raniere, in prison.
Frank, you told me that an interesting development, in that case, is that the defense is preparing to accuse, in a court filing, the Federal Bureau of Investigation of tampering with evidence.
Parlato: Yes. Keith Raniere alleges that the FBI tampered with the evidence used to convict him. It promises to be interesting. There are many people who are dismissing it as the desperate attempt of a person who had just been sentenced to 120 years in prison, but what’s significant about it is his lawyers and his friends have developed an impressive array of technical evidence, computer-based evidence, that purports to show that the FBI may have changed the dates of some photographs and possibly moved some photographs to a device that they seized which was the foundation of the most important charge.
Volpe: More recently, you have done about 20 stories on the divorce of Chris Ambrose and Karen Riordan. I recently had Karen as a guest on a podcast. Even though Karen was the primary caretaker, while her ex-husband, Chris Ambrose, was mostly living a separate life apart from her and the children, about two years ago, a Connecticut judge ordered Chris to have sole custody, and it’s been almost two years since Karen has seen her three children.
Her husband was a screenwriter who got caught plagiarizing, which destroyed his career. And that was what immediately preceded the divorce. Is that right?
Parlato: It preceded the divorce by about a year. Chris Ambrose was a successful television writer. He made a very good living as a creative storyteller. He knows how to tell a yarn. Educated as a lawyer, he got hired in one law show after another. Ironically, his first TV show was Family Court, about manipulative players in the family court system. He went to Harry’s Law, Judging Amy, Bones, NCIS New Orleans, Law and Order. This man was steeped in the law and the tricks of law and writing stories about it.
In 2018, Ambrose worked on a show called Instinct. He got caught stealing/plagiarizing from an earlier show called Bones. He took someone else’s work and put it into a show, put his name on it, and collected money for it.
Volpe: His career is over at that point. Right? It’s hard to recover from that.
Volpe: While he was in Hollywood, he lived away from his wife. And there are three adopted kids.
Parlato: That’s correct.
Volpe: So that sets the stage for the divorce. He’s an absentee dad who tries to come back into the picture and then blames everyone but himself because his kids don’t want to have that relationship with him. Right?
Parlato: I think it runs deeper than that. He and his wife had maybe two or $3 million in marital assets that they accumulated during their marriage and would be, by law, joint owners of these assets. Karen was a stay-at-home mother. She devoted 13 years of her life raising three adopted children, which was their arrangement. I’m told that Ambrose did not want her to work. He wanted her to be a stay-at-home mother. So she stayed at home in Connecticut, where the divorce and custody case is. And he was mainly in Los Angeles and sometimes in New York City; sometimes he’d pop home for a while.
I believe the reason he is fighting for the custody of the kids has less to do with wanting to be with the kids – love the children or raise them. I think it has more to do with his confiscating all the marital assets not having to pay alimony or child support.
Volpe: Frank has also done an in-depth article on the case of Kelly Smith-Grohs, another remarkable Connecticut story in which a biological mom has lost custody to a step-mother. In this case, Kelly’s ex-husband Bill died, but his widow maneuvered the courts in her favor.
Parlato: It’s hard to imagine a world where humans live where the mother would not get her children, and instead of a gold-digging, Jane-come-lately wife, who married him on his deathbed, and changed the will to get his millions into her control, would get custody over the mother, who was never proven to be unfit, incompetent or abusive in any way.
Kelly Smith Grohs raised the kids, the same story. Father used his money to get custody. He gets brain cancer. And naturally, the Merry Widow, who barely knew these kids, had the will changed so that she was a trustee of their father’s trust fund for the children. And the money-driven CT Family Court arranged that the mother would not be permitted to see her children. And the widow who married him about a month before he died gets full custody and complete control of the children and their millions.
Volpe: It’s noteworthy that both Kelly Grohs and Karen Riordan were accused of parental alienation.
Parlato: It’s the weapon of choice.
Volpe: The misuse of parental alienation in Connecticut has been well documented, starting with the book by Keith Harmon Snow, “In the Worst Interest of the Child.”
One key player in Karen’s case, Jessica Biren Caverly, [the custody evaluator], promotes on her website that she is a member of the Connecticut Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). The AFCC is known for propagating the misuse of parental alienation, particularly to change custody from the fit protective mother to the abusive father. It seems like this scheme continues to thrive in Connecticut and beyond.
Parlato: I believe that it rises to the level of a criminal conspiracy. Lawyers for the parties, the guardians ad litem, and the custody evaluators conspire to throw custody to affluent fathers and take children away from their mothers.
And by taking away, I don’t mean giving primary custody to the father. They devise schemes to prohibit contact between the children and the mother unless she submits to some extraordinary protocols, and what I believe will ultimately be proven illegal.
Volpe: I hear from litigants, victims, survivors, whatever you want to call them, all the time. How do you think people should go about trying to get more media interested in this?
Parlato: The things that I’ve seen in case after case is that the victims, the mothers, the children are victims, and the mothers are the ones who are crying out for help. It’s very difficult to tell the story succinctly when you’re hurt, and you’ve had the most important thing in your life ripped away from you – your children. And what we see, in case after case, these women who lost her kids, call on the phone, and they’ll talk for hours about what happened and all the injustice that occurred. You know, to me, it has to be boiled down. It has to be real –.
Volpe: Yeah, yeah. Elevator Pitch.
Parlato: The people who are victimized, if you can boil it down —
Volpe: I totally agree with that. That is part of the problem because people dump, like 100 documents, not necessarily100, more like they dump a whole bunch of stuff. And they say, “if you go through all of this, you’ll see how corrupt it is.” Come on. Nobody’s going to read 100 pages because you say there’s a lot of corruption there.
Parlato: You got to be able to boil it down. I think, slowly, we have to have people who can tell the story. Explain it. And then I think we’ll put an end to this horrifying system of buying custody of children.
Volpe: Are you hopeful that this story will soon break through to the mainstream media and this use of the family court to traffic children will end?
Parlato: When I first started reporting on NXIVM, I was reporting that there was a guy in upstate New York who was branding women as slaves, and I wrote about it, and I wrote about it like you write about things, and no one picked it up. Some of the mainstream media read it and they said, ‘That’s hard to believe. That’s impossible to believe. Someone would have shut them down if he was really doing it.’
Then, four months later, after I began writing about this daily, the New York Times picked up the story, quoted me- gave me credit for breaking the story- and a couple of weeks later, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York began an investigation. A few months later, the man was in custody. I think that will happen here.
The system in place in Connecticut Family Court that is supposed to protect children is run by a rapacious, dishonest group of swindlers who are devouring families’ net worth and robbing children, selling custody for money. I know it sounds outrageous; it sounds hyperbolic. But I think the evidence will show, for anyone who cares, the family court system in Connecticut, and I daresay it exists elsewhere in this country, is corrupt.
I believe ultimately, mainstream media will pick it up. Then it’ll attract the attention of authorities and people like Jessica Biren-Caverly, Nancy Aldrich, Jessica Hurwitz, Jane Grossman, Candace Fay, Jill Planchard, Mary Piscitelli Brigham, Janis Laliberte, Sue Cousineau, et al., this rapacious group may find themselves devoid of their vicious living, and possibly indicted.
Den of Thieves
We must make a whip of cords and drive them out of the courthouse…
Judge Donna Heller
Mary Piscitelli Brigham.
Judge Elizabeth Stewart
Judge Gerard Adelman