Albany Times Union: ‘NXIVM defectors seek leniency for… Frank Parlato’

Frank Parlato talks with former NXIVM insider Susan Dones in “The Lost Women of NXIVM,” a 2019 TV program that Parlato hosted. Dones is among the many figures in the cult-like group's story who have asked a federal judge to show mercy on Parlato. (Aimee Buck/Investigation Discovery)

The following is a story that was published in the Albany Times Union. It appeared online on July 11, 2023 and on the front page of the print edition on July 12.


NXIVM defectors seek leniency for blogger Frank Parlato

Figure in downfall of cult-like group faces his own day of reckoning this month in sentencing for federal tax crimes

By Robert Gavin

ALBANY — Frank Parlato Jr. played a major role in the story of NXIVM — first as a publicist for Keith Raniere’s secretive organization, then as a fierce critic whose blog first exposed the abusive “master/slave” group within Raniere’s inner circle, revelations that eventually led to the would-be guru’s conviction and imprisonment.

The story of NXIVM’s downfall could play a major role in determining Parlato’s fate at his July 20 sentencing for federal tax crimes.

Former members Kristin Keeffe, Susan Dones and Nicki Clyne are among those asking Senior U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to show leniency to Parlato, 68, following his guilty plea to a single count of failure to file tax returns involving cash transactions of more than $10,000.

Prosecutors have described the long-running case as classic tax evasion related to nearly $400,000 in unreported income over several years.

“Frank Parlato helped many women recognize and leave the abuse they experienced at the hands of Keith Raniere and NXIVM,” Clyne said in a statement. The former “Battlestar Galactica” actress, who spent years in NXIVM and the master/slave group Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or DOS, remained loyal to Raniere for years after his conviction, but earlier this year left the tattered vestiges of the organization — with Parlato’s help.

“Even though I initially saw him as an adversary, his dogged dedication to exposing the truth eventually allowed me to see Raniere for who he is and get my life back,” Clyne said.

But Toni Natalie, a former girlfriend of Raniere prior to the founding of NXIVM who was subjected to the group’s penchant for retaliatory litigation, is far more critical of Parlato. She believes Parlato created his blog, The Frank Report, solely to create sympathy for him as he faced tax charges, which were first brought in 2015 following a four-year federal investigation.

Natalie said the blog became increasingly salacious and identified victims for web clicks.

“I am writing this letter to clarify the type of person I now know Mr. Parlato to be,” Natalie said. “Mr. Parlato (is) boldly boasting on his blog that he is only being sentenced for not filing a single paper with the IRS. The way I look at it is Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, but we all know there was so much more.”

Prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence Parlato to between 18 and 24 months behind bars.

Parlato seeks a non-prison sentence. In court papers, he said after more than 11 years of investigation and allegations he engaged in multimillion-dollar fraud and concealment, prosecutors offered him a plea deal to a single failure-to-file charge related to cash he collected as rent from a food stand in 2010.

The case, brought under then-U.S. Attorney William Hochul — the husband of Gov. Kathy Hochul — had direct NXIVM links from its inception: The initial indictment alleged Parlato had victimized Seagram’s heiresses Clare Bronfman and her sister Sara Bronfman-Igtet, high-ranking NXIVM members and benefactors. But in 2018, a superseding indictment against Parlato dropped the Bronfman-related allegations.

That same year, Raniere as well as Clare Bronfman, NXIVM president Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, actress Allison Mack and bookkeeper Kathy Russell were indicted by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn. Bronfman pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiring to conceal and harbor illegal immigrants for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. She is scheduled for release in June 2025. Except for Raniere — currently serving a 120-year sentence — the others also took plea deals: Mack was released from prison last week. Nancy Salzman is slated for release in July 2024. Lauren Salzman and Russell received probation.

Stephen Herbits, a longtime confidant of Seagram’s tycoon Edgar Bronfman Sr., also asked the judge to show leniency to Parlato. He said in his own letter that the Bronfman sisters attempted to make Parlato a legal target following a Los Angeles real estate deal. Herbits testified at Raniere’s 2019 trial that the sisters pressured him to try to convince various prosecutors — including Albany County District Attorney David Soares and then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer — to bring charges against Parlato and other purported NXIVM enemies.

“They wanted to get him indicted,” Herbits wrote in his letter. “They spent significant funds in venue shopping in Albany, Los Angeles and elsewhere to find a forum that would indict Mr. Parlato and some of the departees from NXIVM.”

Herbits wrote that while Edgar Bronfman Sr. initially asked him to assist his daughters in their NXIVM activities, he declined — but agreed to monitor their participation as it became more concerning to the elder Bronfman. Herbits said the sisters were abusing the legal system to bring baseless litigation and criminal allegations against NXIVM’s perceived enemies.

Parlato first wrote about DOS in June 2017. The group came to national attention later that fall in a New York Times report that expanded on The Frank Report’s stories and ultimately stirred federal prosecutors in Brooklyn to charge Raniere. Police and prosecutors in the Capital Region never brought charges against Raniere or other top NXIVM members despite extensive Times Union coverage of the cult-like group.

“(Parlato’s) work exposing the perfidy of NXIVM’s behavior was critical to the ultimate decision of the trial in that case. To many involved, Mr. Parlato became a hero,” Herbits told the judge. “I ask your honor, through this letter, and given the history of this case for what Mr. Parlato  endured and the good he did in helping to bring true criminals to justice, that he be given the minimum sentence permissible.”

Keeffe, who has a son with Raniere, told the judge that when she left NXIVM in 2014, Parlato offered support and refuge.

“When I worked with Frank years before, he had no idea the abuses that were happening in secret to me and other women in NXIVM, nor did I tell him. I hid it,” Keeffe wrote.  “However, he must have sensed something was off and one day he had said to me as an aside, ‘You know, if you ever want to leave these people, I usually keep a second home in Florida. You could go there, and I can help you start over.’”

Keeffe added: “Frank never once considered the potential peril to himself for helping us either. Since then and despite facing enormous hardship in his own life he has been a rock of support throughout the years. … I would be heartbroken if after all the good Frank has done, he was sentenced to prison.”

Other Parlato’s defenders included Ruth MacMurray, an Irish woman who told the judge her teenage daughter became entangled in NXIVM beginning in 2010.

A woman in NXIVM, whom MacMurray did not identify, tried to turn her daughter against her and draw her into the group, she said. MacMurray said she found Parlato after looking up information on NXIVM.

“Frank Parlato came to our rescue. He got our daughter out by  Halloween 2016,” the mother told the judge. “There was much healing to be done, but without Frank Parlato’s willingness to listen and help us, our daughter would not be with us today.”

About the author

Guest View


Click here to post a comment

  • I kind of feel sorry for the Brooklyn Burger King guy who’s probably feeling especially dejected today. A couple of weeks ago, he officially “embargoed” comments (as only nation-states can) and still didn’t achieve whatever he might have been paid to achieve.

    He wrote he, “… would not take credit for Clyne leaving, but there was a very curious sequence of events here immediately before she left. I posted up an article on Raniere losing one of his many prison lawsuits. Ho-hum stuff. But not long afterward someone who was likely Michele Hatchette herself came by here, saying that I was all lying and that Raniere would be free any day.

    After “Hatchette’s” posts here was when Clyne began deleting NXIVM content from her website and locked down the Dossier Project social media pages. My own personal hunch is that news of Raniere’s prison lawsuit failing hit the DOSsier Project members hard. In particular, Hatchette coming here is reminiscent of NXIVM members being deployed to harass the acapella participants who blew the whistle on them — basically, the response to a reality bubble being popped was ‘posting through it.’

    I would also speculate here that Clyne’s loss of status (due to no longer having privileged access to Raniere) had as much to do with that her departure as anything else.“

    The Albany Times Union credits Frank for being the hero, not Chet. “The New York Times expanded on The Frank Report’s stories. In March 2018, Raniere was indicted. In 2019, he was convicted at trial of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and racketeering charges. He is serving 120 years in federal prison …”

    Can we all help Chet and just agree to say that Chet saved all the brainwashed women from the NXIVM project?

    Frank probably wouldn’t mind. The New York Times and the DOJ are too smart and too ashamed to comment and not many pay any attention to any of this anyway, and a kind word to Chet might be what’s most needed right now.

    If the Brooklyn guy is reading this:
    All you can do is to do your best. It looks like you did your best and God has His own plans.

  • 📣 “The letters of support filed in U.S. District Court came from people across the country who extolled Parlato’s past investigative work that helped expose Nxivm, a purported self-help organization near Albany whose leader was eventually sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking and forced labor, among other charges.” 📣

    What took so long for federal investigators investigate “NXIVM”? 🤔

  • Mr. Pfeiffer and how many others think Western NY investigators investigated NXIVM? 🧐 says:

    Parlato said he didn’t hear the comment, but said he would have told the investigator, “The same to you.”

    • Is Allison Mack even able to wonder what Capital Region feds thought of NXIVM in 2003?

      NXIVM Corporation v. The Ross Institute (1:03-cv-00976)
      District Court, N.D. New York
      Date Filed: Aug. 6, 2003 … when Alison was 21-years-old.

      “… Atty. Gleason states boils down to publication of artice of Martin; act did not occur in NY; Atty. Sylvester states nothing to add as to Sutton and relies on the papers; makes point on personal jurisdiction with defendant Franco; Atty. Sherwin turns to venue motion; only parties that don’t concur are Ross defendants, Martin and Wellspring; states originally sued here for plaintiffs’ business in Captial Region (sic); Sutton defendants were added after initial suit; turns to personal jurisdiction; moot to Suttons if transferred; discusses dispute of service could have traverse hearing; states Martin and Wellspring waived this argument; transferring case to NJ would not impact discovery; discusses procedural history read of last transcript before this court; Court states standard of review for transfer of jurisdiction; Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ Motion to Change Venue; Court DENIES all other motions based on granting of the motion to transfer. Transcript constitutes the decision and record of this court. No written order forthcoming. (Court Reporter Theresa Casal) 9:10-9:32 a.m. (jel, ) (Entered: 02/16/2006) …

      Who in Hollywood decided Allison should be named “Chloe” and be in danger of death at least 75 times? Why did the Bronfman sisters fly her to Albany, New York to meet Keith Raniere in 2006?

      Does Allison — or anyone who cares about Allison — ever wonder what happened between the time she said, “When I go to see a film or a piece of artwork or — something happens to me that is so exciting and wonderful. Blissful. Joyful” and the time she was somehow convinced to promote Marina Abromovich, Marina Abromovich’s “art” and a corporation once known as Twitter?

  • Some of the worst of the worst powers-that-shouldn’t-be in Connecticut will be very disappointed to hear the good news today – and special attention for a year and a few months will probably be the perfect amount of perfect protection for that brave reporter.

  • Frank Parlato is an exceptional human being.
    I know that whatever happens he will turn lemons into lemonade.
    He doesn’t deserve to go to jail .

  • Rob Gavin has covered the NXIVM case for years and understands the Bronfman litigation machine. I hope he writes more about how after a decade of investigation on Parlato, the DOJ still can’t find anything worthy of what they’ve invested trying to nail him. Failing to file a tax form? Please. Probably happens every day. And surely it was a mistake. Being a bad bookkeeper shouldn’t be a crime worthy of incarceration, especially if you fix it, pay whatever you owe, late fees, or whatever.

  • It’s quite possible that the same sort of ruthless individuals in government and mainstream news who ignored the ESP/NXIVM trafficking for 20 years are the same sort of ruthless individuals in government and mainstream news who told everyone to ignore that new movie about human trafficking.

    • Now all we need is to continue to speak the truth fearlessly, and we shall add to our number those who will turn the scale to the side of equal and full justice in all things.

  • Allison Mack turns 41 in a week on July 29. Can we look forward to an article on this special day for Allison?

  • That guy from Green Acres … customers across the country bought memberships to access the purchasing power of another company … Consumers’ Buyline members sold 200,000 memberships to new members who would then sell memberships to other members who would then sell the same kind of memberships … and then The Consumers’ Buyline crash was all over the news.

    The 1996 Consent Order and Judgment said Raniere, Karen Unterreiner and Pamela Cafritz agreed to pay $40,000 and not ever start another multilevel marketing pyramid businesses in New York — ever again. Then, Raniere, Karen Unterreiner and Pamela Cafritz started another multilevel marketing pyramid businesses again. In New York.

    Did all the authorities and mainstream news investigators then just sit back and watch what Raniere did for the next almost twenty years — or did a few orchestrate, fund, enable and facilitate it?

    It looks like a few orchestrated, funded, enabled and facilitated it.

  • I thought the Nxivm members wrote letters in support of Parlato when they were trying to get Raniere indicted.

    Are these included in the letters to Judge Arcara?

  • Stephen Herbits is one of the most ethical leaders our country has known. He’s modest and works behind the scenes on some of the most important turning points in history.

    He has come out to defend Frank Parlato because he knows the truth and is prepared to explain all to the judge. Frank was a target of the Bronfmans. He’s no criminal.


  • Lock him up. Toni Natalie wants it. So does Eddie Nubaum and Chris Ambrose. Three strikes from three tikes and you’re out.

    • The question is, where does Frank come up with the names?
      My theory:
      Robert: Robert Kennedy?
      Gavin: Gavin Newsome?

  • “No good deed goes unpunished.” Judge Judy.
    Oh Frank. These people, they are like herpes, they never go away. They turn up on your lip, your genitals, your emails.
    All the best.
    Keep fighting the good fight. The Death Star still hasn’t been blown to bits yet.

    • Excellent they’re coming to Parlato’s defense. Some people have short memories. These are the heaviest hitters and most credible of all the former NXIVM players.

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


Discover more from Frank Report

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading