Flashback 2010: Susan Dones Warns Raniere Followers ‘This Is a Dangerous Cult’

Susan Dones gives an interview outside the Brooklyn Courthouse.

Today, some fret that several people still follow the Vanguard and long for the return of NXIVM upon his release from prison.

People find it incredulous that anyone could stick with Keith Raniere with all the information available about him.

Yet there are fine and lovely people who still think he’s tops. Here are some 22 followers still profoundly supportive of the grand master.

Nicki Clyne

Eduardo Asunsolo

Damon Brink

Michele Hatchette

Samantha LeBaron

Suneel Chakravorty

Leah Mottishaw

Esther Chiappone Carlson

Marc Elliot

Brian Elliot

Justin Elliot

Angelica Hinojos

Linda Chung

Brandon Porter

Danielle Roberts

Sahajo Haertel

Dani Padilla

Loreta Garza

Jimena Garza

Omar Boone

Edgar Boone

Clare Bronfman

For Nxivm members who got out in 2017 or 2018, do not look down on the above list.

You might recall days gone by when someone told you about the rascal Raniere.

You read it in the Albany Times Union or Forbes or heard from Barbara Bouchey or Susan Dones and ignored it.

We need a little patience for the remaining followers. They must come to grips in their own way, just as you did, that Raniere deceived them.


Susan Dones left NXIVM in 2009, along with Bouchey and seven other women. At that time, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people thought Raniere was superb.

And Dones and Bouchey were evil.

They tried to warn the followers, but few would listen.

In 2010, John Tighe had a blog called Saratoga in Decline. He wrote about NXIVM. The blog no longer exists. But my records show that on Friday, September 24, 2010, Tighe published this op-ed of Dones.

Though Dones spoke out loud and clear, almost nobody left. The celebrated whistleblowers Sarah Edmondson, and Mark Vicente, were hostile to her.

Nancy Salzman, who says she found out about Raniere after his arrest, opposed Dones.

Lauren Salzman, Kristin Kreuk, Allison Mack, Emiliano Salinas, Alejandro Betancourt – and many more – say they now know the truth. They would not listen then.

They stuck with the Vanguard.

So here is what Susan Dones had to say — back in 2010 — eight years before the feds collated the mighty one.

Published September 24, 2010

Ex-NXIVM leader speaks out

By Susan Dones

To people concerned about loved ones inside of NXIVM

The following is my opinion from my personal experience of my time within NXIVM. It may not be everyone’s experience. I hope this part of my story will help you better understand what your loved ones might be going through and why it is hard to get through to them, even to get them to read or listen to the mountain of information out there that exposes NXIVM for what it is.

In my opinion, NXIVM is a cult.

To NXIVM members who read this, I know this post must only support what you have been told about me, unless you question your red flags. It is the proof you need to keep your belief that I am a suppressive. I admit I can sometimes be an arrogant asshole, but I must disagree with being close to or having “taken the fall.”

There is too much information from many sources pointing to the fact that NXIVM is a cult. I believe NXIVM was abusive to me, others, and most likely to you when you did not toe the line.

John Tighe has invited people who read/write on this blog to share their experiences, either pro NXIVM or not. The more we do, the more we get the full story of this organization.

There are no trade secrets exposed in this post. Sorry, Steve [Coffey – attorney for NXIVM], for the loss of money you could earn by suing me for breaching my contract.

If you want to support NXIVM in a suit against me, I have nothing to give, as I lost all my investments with NXIVM, and hopefully, I will get through my bankruptcy.

I believe a big issue with people on the “inside” of NXIVM, from the hindsight of almost ten years of involvement in NXIVM, is the conditioning that takes place when one “joins the mission.”

There is what I call the grooming of one’s thoughts, beliefs, and behavior. This happened to me through the classes I took and the “feedback” from the leadership circle. Am I a victim of this?

Some would say so.

I did choose to participate, but from my understanding of humanitarian and moral behavior, I don’t believe the teachings of Keith/Vanguard, and my beliefs, are on the same page in the dictionary.

Along with many others, we were conned.

I found the “mind-bending” of NXIVM to be subtle, a slow drip, which is hard to object to. You don’t know it’s happening.

A frog will do what it can to jump out of a hot pot of water. But a frog will slowly adapt to comfortable water, and then gradually heated until it is too late to get out of the pot until it is cooked.

The leadership within NXVIM supports each other in their edification of each other.

When we questioned anything that showed we didn’t comply with what was expected, they sent people to deal with us.

Keith said on the third day of the NXIVM 9 meetings that I was the most controversial member of NXIVM. You would have to ask him to know what he meant by that. I want to think it was because I was high rank who ran the center in Tacoma to their disliking and did not tow the NXIVM line.

There are promises made when you join the mission of being more successful in the world. The leadership of NXIVM is skilled at finding one’s Achilles heel. Mine was a desire to help people and be more successful in business.

There was either praise and reward or taking away things and punishment. How they choose what works best to bring people into line is beyond me. Whatever they do, it worked on me for years.

I was asked if the leadership would have treated me better, would I have stayed?

This is so hard to answer. I was on the hot seat for so many years for not toeing the line.

If I had more positive attention from NXIVM leaders for what I was doing for the organization and open discussions about complaints that many had, I might have stayed in my fog bank and still be involved.

If I had been treated better or “set up better,” I likely would not have been willing to meet with what is known as the NXIVM 9. I would only have gotten one side (Keith’s) of his sexual behavior story and the money lost in gambling in the commodities market.

I might have bought it hook, line and sinker. I did for years.

Most people within NXIVM are not open to outside information. It’s part of the conditioning that takes place. People believe Keith is the world’s smartest man, without really investigating “The Fruit On His Tree.”

Why do they believe this?

Well, an entire group supports that belief within NXIVM. They giveth and taketh away based on your questions and reactions.

You are sold this with the promise of getting what you want. For those who “bought it,” you either toe the line or deal with the repercussions.

I believed what Nancy Salzman and her other upper leadership told me about people.

Here are some of the things I blindly believed.

Toni Natalie

Nancy Salzman told me she “loaned” Toni Natalie $80,000 that Toni did not repay after she left Keith. Many upper leaders (some who never met Toni) said Toni was a suppressive and a thief.

It wasn’t until after I left NIXVM and started doing research that I found a very different story.

Most people do not know that NXIVM, Keith, Nancy and others kept Toni in bankruptcy hell for over 8 years. If one reads the court documents of Toni, Joe O’Hara and Barbara Bouchey, you will see a pattern of what I believe is using the legal system to bully people. This pattern follows other lawsuits, such as the Rick Ross and Precision Development suits.

Nancy Salzman told me that Joe O’Hara was a criminal and had stolen money from a foundation of NXIVM. After leaving NXIVM in my research for the truth, I found this was a lie. I didn’t know Joe, so I believed it when I was told without any other “data” about him.

In hindsight, this is not critical thinking, or being a sheep. HELLO SHEEP.

Barbara Bouchey and Nancy Salzman

Nancy Salzman told me that Barbara Bouchey was suppressive and “crazy”. I know what it’s like to be one of the people sticking your neck out to talk about things that were not in the best interest of NXVIM. Barbara was active in trying to change things within NXIVM. I knew she wasn’t suppressive, nor did she need a mental institution for being “crazy”.

Barbara Bouchey, Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman – when both women thought he was grand.

There was a time when Keith was not talking to Barbara, and the question “out in the community” was, “What do you think Barbara did that was so bad that even Keith would not talk to her?”

What do you think this puts into the minds of followers?

What I found out after getting the other side of the story was Barbara had broken off her relationship with Keith, and he stopped talking to her. Due to the code of silence the inner circle had around Keith’s sexual behavior, Barbara was caught between a rock and a hard place in coming forward about why Keith stopped talking to her.

Most people wouldn’t even ask her due to their conditioning. The leadership knew that Barbara would likely not break the code of silence, nor would people ask her why Keith was not talking to her. She passed around this “question” likely to discredit Barbara in early damage control if she left NXIVM.

Nancy Salzman told me that she and Keith had “hypothesized” that I was a full suppressive and likely had taken “the fall”. (Psychopath is what she was saying).

This was followed by many other NXIVM leaders coming to me to give me “feedback” about anything I said and did, backing up the feedback with “you know you’re working on your issues of suppression. You want to get better, don’t you?”

If I did not stay within the fine line of acceptable behavior, this is what happened. The leadership also planted seeds regarding me being “suppressive” and it grew like wildfire within the community. If I left, it was because I was suppressive, and why believe what I have to say about NXIVM.

If I stayed and changed my ways, well it was the tech that “cured her”. Hence more damage control for the ones who ask too many questions and make too many waves.

This went on for years. The longer it went on, more and more people heard the “story” and believed it to be true. What do you think happened if I got angry, put my foot down, questioned someone’s authority? It just validated the Susan is suppressive “story.”

Most non-NXVIM members would tell someone who says such a thing to “frack off” if these things were happening to them. You have not been the frog with the temperature slowly turned up, but the frog in hot water when reading of such things.

The world’s smartest man. Keith Alan Raniere.

MK10ART painting of Susan Dones

Until you’re in it, it’s hard to understand, just like any form of abuse. People don’t understand why a woman will stay with an abusive husband. Some will not, but many do, to the slow drip of taking away her self-esteem, she starts to believe she is a piece of crap.

Due to the conditioning and trust put into Keith, Nancy and their leaders, those exposed to this “wolf pack type of feedback” question ourselves. It’s a classic abuse/abusers conditioning you see on Lifetime movies. This is why so many of us went to training after training, paying thousands of dollars to help ourselves. We believe the lies we were being told about ourselves.

I don’t know where the lies start. Is it with Keith, who has conditioned his close woman followers since before and during CBI days? Did Keith get to Nancy and condition her, and now she helps him, or was she this way when she started working with him? When one of the leaders falls from grace and is not towing the line, I have seen them getting “wolf pack feedback”.

Due to the “fog”, we cannot see what non-NXIVM people can see. The training has ways to put in “Double Binds” (Here) that can then be used by the leadership of NXIVM against someone to get them back into line.

The ones that toe the line the most are the ones that stay the longest. If you question the contradictions, the “wolf feedback pack” comes after you. It is my opinion that many have left due to the “wolf pack,” but remain quiet because they still fear the wolf pack or worse, a law suit.

It isn’t until you can see through the fog (usually with a big date with reality) that you can see what is happening to them. My date was the meetings that took place with the NXIVM 9 and the three days of meeting with Keith to confront him with our concerns. The veil of fog was lifted, and I could see that NXIMV was not what I thought it was. To stay regardless of what I liked about the training or my love for some members was not worth what I had to give up within myself to stay.

My hope is that this is helpful for some family/friends who still have loved ones inside of NXIVM.

It might help one inside NXIVM who is questioning. It might bring me into the lawsuits that NXIVM is so famous for, the fruit on Keith’s tree.

About the author

Frank Parlato

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1 year ago

Why are you afraid to moderate this issue ? Don’t want anyone to know what a liar you are ?


[…] Talk about differing views. In 2010, Susan Dones warned everyone that NXIVM was dangerous.  […]

1 year ago

Susan Dones is a class act and awesome human being!

1 year ago

Samantha LeBaron is friends with this guy. Kevin Hermann of http://www.roundtablemen.com/ . I told you all that nxivm lives on. Kevin also ran Exponential which is male DOS. This guy Is one of many former nxivm hacks that went solo…but do exactly what Keith and Nancy was doing. Same curriculum
…different brand name. Frank do a report on all the projects that people started when nxivm collapsed. No one quit…they just re opened with different names and now could go solo and not worry about copyright infringement on esp/nxivm. The shutdown of nxivm actually increased the spread of this sick coaching mentality.

1 year ago
Reply to  anon

It was kind of like Saddam Hussein. He was crazy for his country and admittedly a horrible genocidal man, but kept the middle east in check because he would go after everyone. Once Saddsm left….it got worse and created a vacuum. Sometimes an isolated maniac is better than without? Now more coaches and their culty companies exist than ever before.

1 year ago

Remarkable that she never got the credit. Meanwhile Mark and Sarah are considered the heroic “whistle blowers”. And they both shunned Susan! And NXIVM continued on.
You have to wonder if KR and Lauren realized that branding Sarah would be a bad idea and changed the plan, what would have happened? What if they actually had common sense, and they decided branding Sarah, a married woman with kids was a bad idea. So Sarah never finds out about the branding. There is no ny times article. What happens? Does Mark Vicente follow through? Or does NXIVM still exist today and KR still has legions of followers?

1 year ago

Frank- When did this article come to your attention? Did Susan Dones seek your help? Is this how you got involved in taking down nxivm? Did your time with nxivm overlap with Susan Dones?

Where’s Suneel?
Where’s Suneel?
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank Parlato

What Happened to Suneel ? Hasn’t shown since September. Im
Hoping he’s opened his eyes

1 year ago

Who is MK10ART? Whoever it is has such talent. I often read frankreport to see her work. Thankful she supports free speech and exposing corruption as Frank Report does!

1 year ago

“The veil of fog” is so toxic, blinding and stifling. It’s takes years to create and tears to recover from, which is why Raniere and Clare Bronfman should remain in prison. Nancy Saltzman got off way too easy.

Vicente should pay Dones
Vicente should pay Dones
1 year ago

To Susan Dones: you are an inspiration to so many of us who have experienced abuse and retaliation.

Didn’t know Vicente retaliated against her- yet another reason he’s no victim on this case. He should turn over the money he received in the lawsuit to Susan Dones.

1 year ago

Then you do believe that people in the Nxium cult retaliated against those who tried to leave?

All of those people who weren’t allowed to extricate themselves without crushing legal punishment deserve to be compensated.

There are multiple people whom Keith used the Bronfman money to put through torturous and financially ruining litigation.

Keith and other members of Nxivm harassed and stalked Keith’s baby mama Kristen.

Terrorizing and uprooting them both from a life they created when escaping Keith.

It’s refreshing to see that you understand there are merits to the Civil ligation case.

Unless of course, it’s just a chance to bag on Mark Vicente more?

And it’s going to be another show of hypocrisy from a dead -ender?

1 year ago

Have you watched The Vow? Mark felt deep regret and guilt for how treated Susan during that time. He was still in the fog. She has readily forgiven him. And Mark never received a penny of Susan’s money. He wasn’t the plaintiff. She won her case anyway.

Forlorn Five
Forlorn Five
1 year ago

I had no idea there were so many still aligning themselves with Raniere. Several names are unfamiliar. Knew of the faithful forlorn five (dead Enders) but not all of those Frank listed.

Admirable Susan Dones
Admirable Susan Dones
1 year ago

Powerful and insightful article by Susan Dones. I’ve found her to be well reasoned, empathetic and self aware.

Did anyone leave as a result of Susan’s article? She explained the slow- cook of abuse really well. Strong woman to endure such abuse. Very admirable.

1 year ago

Everything was there in 2010. Nobody left. So why are we blaming the late leaving followers? So hypocritical. Nobody can leave till they’re ready. Some will die first. but I ageee with Frank be patient

Aristotle’s Sausage
Aristotle’s Sausage
1 year ago

I admire Susan Dones for bailing out of Nxivm and going public with her accusations against the cult. This was before the days of DOS and sex trafficking too, when Nxivm was just a MLM “human potential” scam.

In 2010 Nxivm was still strong and sue-happy so Dones had to be careful what she said. She was courageous going as far as she did.

And yet, I find the frog in warm water stuff unconvincing.

I was listening to a podcast a few months ago where former Smallville castmates Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling talked about a certain actress’s attempt to recruit them, she all chipper about this “amazing” group Nxivm. When she left, Rosenbaum turned to Welling and said, “sounds kinda like a cult”.

And that’s the thing: Nxivm was OBVIOUSLY a cult. Anybody with any sense knew that.

Just like most frogs won’t jump into cooking pots in the first place.

A lot of people seem to have joined Nxivm despite their thinking it seemed like a cult. Sarah Edmondson and her then-boyfriend did. So, reportedly, did Mack.

These people joined the cult knowing it was a cult. The vast majority of people have the sense to steer clear, and cults are not that hard to spot. Edmondson’s first Nxivm class had people bowing down to Raniere’s picture on the wall, for god’s sake.

A lot of people joined Nxivm due to blind ambition and greed. To change the world and make money in business. Often their desire to rule over people was disguised as the softer sounding “to help people”; nevertheless in always involved being in charge. Dones:

“The leadership of NXIVM is skilled at finding one’s Achilles heel. Mine was a desire to help people and be more successful in business.”

Put less charitably, that’s a desire for power and money. And from what I’ve learned those were the reasons lots of people joined Nxivm. Overweening ambition and greed overrode caution.

Frogs and warm water don’t enter into it, and the excuse that “anyone can find themselves trapped in a cult” is simply untrue.

1 year ago

Was Nxivm was “just a MLM human potential scam” or was it something much more than that?

1 year ago

They still won’t learn. They will take coaching and life classes with different people and under different company names. Vulnerable people will still be vulnerable. And manipulators and exploiters will still exploit. Those people who are desperate for help and to fit in and find friends who “care” about them, will continue to seek out exploiters!

1 year ago

Susan Dones did a lot to break up this silly stupid cult. She should write a book or do a show. She makes a lot of sense then and she makes a lot of sense now. Too bad she couldn’t reach the dead Enders. So sad.

A pretty impressive silly stupid cult.
A pretty impressive silly stupid cult.
1 year ago
Reply to  Gaslit

Was it just a “silly stupid cult“?

17,000 people scattered across a few different countries would have spread pretty quickly.

People perish for lack of knowledge.
People perish for lack of knowledge.
1 year ago

Raniere said he’s “had people killed”. Did anyone in law enforcement ask him about that?

For example, the public might want to know who Raniere had “killed”. The public might want to know who did the killing.

Did anyone ever wonder what’s stopping Raniere from having other people killed?

Couldn’t Raniere have people killed from prison if he’s a sexual deviant who’s “had people killed”? 🤔

Did Raniere have his killing happen in 2002? Did Raniere and Salzman then recruit (or, as they say “enroll”) 17,000 of some of the best and brightest into the “Executive Success Programs” after that? They were to say “enroll” and not “recruit” because Raniere wasn’t allowed to be involved in the multi level marketing operation he ran from 1998 until his arrest in 2018. That’s twenty years. How many crimes were committed and why were so few charges filed?

How many crimes did “law enforcement” let go unnoticed? It’s all very strange. It’s almost as though the name “Executive Success Programs” could have been an inside joke thought up in a beautifully furnished office somewhere.

Tom O’Neill started writing about “The Family” in “The Charlie Manson case” in 1999 and eventually found a cover-up.

Were the “Espians” like “The Family” was? Did Keith Raniere play the role Charlie Manson played? Maybe promiscuous sex, little sleep and little food played the role promiscuous sex and the drugs played in the 1960s and 70s.

So few authorities investigating just a few murders a few decades later probably means the cover-up continues.


How many of us have been deceived in how many different ways?
How many of us have been deceived in how many different ways?
1 year ago

“Published September 24, 2010“

What took so long for those in law enforcement to notice?

Peter Longworth
Peter Longworth
1 year ago

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that no one is perfect; we all have our flaws without exception. To believe one person, i.e. Keith Raniere, is blessed with some kind of divine power and moral perfection is therefore erroneous by definition. Whatever about being part of a community, which of course can suck you in and keep you there, the idolatry to that one person is fundamentally irrational. When you then witness ridiculous ceremonial gestures, silly coloured sashes, EM sessions that go on forever, and all the other BS, surely the alarms should be going off in your head, if they have not already? Though it is commendable that Susan left, it defies understanding why she, or anyone else for that matter, joined up in the first place.

L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard
1 year ago

Too bad people were too stupid to believe her then. People gotta learn the hard way.

1 year ago
Reply to  L. Ron Hubbard

They didn’t learn anything. They left and setup their own coaching companies afterwards.

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: frankreport76@gmail.com


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