As a result of his vital work in the takedown of the NXIVM cult, Frank Parlato has been prominently featured in five different books on the sex-slavery scandal. We have gathered here, for your convenience and ease of access, all the relevant passages.
Don’t Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM, by Sarah Berman
From Chapter 9:
WHEN FRANK PARLATO was first hired by Keith Raniere in 2007, it was to fix NXIVM’s public relations troubles. The company was fighting off bad press, and Parlato was brought on to place positive stories in the media and turn the organization’s reputation around.
Parlato was staying in one of the apartments owned and maintained by the Bronfmans. He became something of a fixer during his months working for Raniere, finding problems and solving them as he went.
After Parlato had spent months putting out public relations fires, Nancy Salzman asked him in December 2007 if he could help secure a $5 million construction loan for a real estate deal. The loan was to help finance Sara and Clare Bronfman’s L.A. development, in which the sisters had already invested $26 million.
“I began to feel uncomfortable with the nature of the deal,” Parlato told me. “It was structured entirely wrong.”
The scheme aimed to buy empty lots in desirable hillside locations, build luxury mansions, and sell the developed property at a steep profit. Parlato was troubled because all the lots had already been acquired for development, but no buyers had yet been secured. Construction had started (albeit barely), and it appeared the building would be happening on spec, without input from the high-end clients who’d be buying the multimillion-dollar homes. Luxury buyers usually want a say in how their properties are constructed, especially if they’re paying millions, Parlato told me.
Worse than that, Parlato began to suspect there was some embezzling going on. He claims that as much as $10 million of the Bronfmans’ money was unaccounted for. Plus, the Bronfmans weren’t listed on the ownership. Parlato said he wanted to investigate.
Parlato was either lent or given (this is still in dispute) a sum of $1 million to get to Los Angeles and figure out what was going on. On his way across the country he says he stopped in Las Vegas to “hire a couple actors” to pose as muscle on the trip. “These are the streets of L.A., and there are two kinds of law: legal law and street law,” Parlato told me. “I wanted to be prepared to address both.”
After a pause, Parlato assured me that his “muscle” routine was “pure bluff.” He arrived in California in January 2008.
YURI PLYAM WAS on the scrawny side of the tough-guy spectrum, Parlato says. Plyam and his wife, Natalia, had spent the previous two years buying multimillion-dollar properties around Beverly Hills with the intention of building and reselling for a profit. The Bronfmans weren’t closely supervising or holding the Plyams to a particular schedule. Yuri thought Parlato was coming over to help secure a loan.
In a deposition, the developer described Frank Parlato as a mobster-looking guy with a fedora, a long jacket, and a Sherlock Holmes pipe in his mouth, flanked by an intimidating bodyguard and lawyer. Parlato told him he’d found inconsistencies in the company’s financial projection spreadsheets and that payroll records didn’t match the number of workers at the sites. He’d discovered that the same workers had also been putting in time on a separate property owned by the Plyams. One of the workers, Parlato added, admitted that he was told to rush to one of the sites and look busy ahead of an inspection.
According to Plyam, Parlato claimed to be representing Edgar Bronfman. At one point he told Plyam, “If you don’t cooperate, it will be World War III.”
Parlato allegedly strong-armed the developer out of the deal, making himself CEO of the $20 million–plus real estate project. In a panicked email to Raniere on February 1, 2008, Plyam claimed that Parlato had said he and his wife could go to jail if they didn’t sign over the property.
Parlato admits that he intended to seem intimidating but denies he ever claimed to be working for Edgar Bronfman. He claims that Plyam made the assumption himself that Parlato had been sent by Edgar, and he didn’t try to correct him. “Yuri made up a lot of fanciful things,” he says. “I didn’t say those words to him, but I let him believe whatever he wanted.”
Parlato stands by his work for the Bronfman sisters in California. “Within a very short time I discovered a fraud and put the assets, such as they were, in the Bronfmans’ name.”
The Bronfmans, however, didn’t see things this way. On advice from Raniere they went after both Plyam and Parlato in court. Construction on the properties was never completed.
Parlato was fired in February 2008 and was soon caught in the crosshairs of NXIVM’s so-called legal department. Since that time Parlato and Raniere have been locked in an apparent battle to destroy each other. Raniere maintained a list of enemies, his trial revealed, and this latest entry would not go quietly into the night.
From Chapter 25:
THOUGH EDMONDSON’S EXIT was quiet at first, one week later an all-out war erupted in Vancouver. The branding allegations appeared on Frank Report, former NXIVM publicist Frank Parlato’s tabloid-style blog. Kobelt remembers that she and her boyfriend were driving over a bridge when she first read the details. “I read the article out loud,” she told me. “I was flabbergasted.”
The only names mentioned in the June 5 post were Keith Raniere and Allison Mack, but the post described the nude photos collected as “collateral,” the hours-long branding process that was recorded on cell phone video, and the vow of slavery taken by each recruit.
Not long after the post went live, Edmondson got a phone call from one of her coaches. “I heard about the Frank Report and I’m supposed to move to Albany,” the Vancouver coach told Edmondson. Though she can’t recall her exact words, Edmondson replied with some variation of “Please don’t move to Albany.”
“Why, it can’t be true, can it?” the coach asked.
“Do you need to see my brand?” Edmondson fired back.
The woman on the other end of the call sounded concerned and confused, so Edmondson kept going. “I said, ‘I got branded, please don’t move to Albany,’ and I hung up.”
Later that day, Edmondson found out the call had been a trap. The coach was already in DOS and already branded. “She was taping me, to prove that I was breaking my vow of secrecy.”
NXIVM leadership had discovered that Edmondson was warning Vancouver students about the branding ceremony and helping people cancel their memberships, and Salzman had quickly mounted a campaign to stop supporters from leaving. “That’s when shit really started to hit the fan,” Kobelt said.
CAPTIVE: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult, by Catherine Oxenberg and Natasha Stoynoff
“One man was Frank Parlato, Keith’s former publicist from many years ago. In 2007, he’d been hired by political consultant Roger Stone-yes, that Roger Stone-to clean up Nxivm’s image. (Stone had worked at Nxivm for a short stint. His advice to Keith? “If you don’t want to come across as a cult, then don’t act like one.”) Today Parlato is a businessman, journalist, and creator of the Frank Report, a blog dedicated to exposing Keith Raniere and the criminal activities of the cult.
“If Clare Bronfman had never come after me with false, made-up charges, there wouldn’t be a Frank Report,” he would later tell me. “I will continue to do what Keith hired me to do as his publicist—tell the truth about Nxivm.”
I pulled up his blog and began reading it voraciously, one post after the other.
I remember hearing his name whispered when I was taking ESP classes. The cult vilified Parlato as a purveyor of vile misinformation with a vendetta against Keith, and members were instructed not to read his blog. I could see why.
One post contained a video of Keith saying, ‘I’ve had people killed because of my beliefs, and for their beliefs, and because of things that I’ve said.’”
FRANK DIDN’T LET NXIVM LAWSUIT STOP HIM
“But why was only the FrankReport writing about all this? With just a little research, I found my answer online: Nxivm vigorously sued any and every publication that had written a negative word about it, so that by now, most investigative journalists were afraid to report on the group. They’d been silenced for fear of legal retribution.
Thanks to the limitless Bronfman billions, Nxivm had sued mainstream media publications such as Vanity Fair and had even gotten a respected reporter from the Albany Times Union, James Odato, put on leave—all because they dared to write the truth.
Almost everybody had been silenced. Except for Frank Parlato. Oh, they’d gone after Frank, too—with accusations that led to two indictments and nineteen felony counts against him. But Frank didn’t let that stop him. He kept on writing. The more I read about Nxivm on the FrankReport, the more shocked I was at what I read and how many famous names were linked to it—including Doug Rutnik, the father of New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Sir Richard Branson and even the Dalai Lama.
I decided I was going to investigate all of it—the criminal stories, the celebrity links, the lawsuits—everything. But first I wanted Frank’s help.
I noticed he hadn’t posted in a while, and I didn’t see anything on his site about branding or DOS.
I cold-called him and got him on the phone. After introducing myself, I explained my background with the cult and about India.
“Mr. Parlato, are you aware that Nxivm has a secret master-slave sex society, and women are being tortured and branded?”
The pause was so long, I thought we’d been disconnected.
“No,” he said carefully. “I wasn’t aware of that.”
Later, he told me that he thought I was one of two things: a crazy mom or a plant by the cult trying to feed him false evidence to open him up to more lawsuits. Understandably, he was suspicious and cautious, and asked me if anyone could corroborate what I was telling him. I told him I had a list of names, and he began his own investigation.
As soon as he realized that my claims were accurate, Frank went on a writing rampage about the cult that hasn’t stopped churning out over a thousand blogs about the cult up to this day.
His first of many articles about DOS hit the internet on June 5, 2017, and it caused an uproar in Albany and in the ESP community:
“BRANDED SLAVES AND MASTER RANIERE; SOURCES: HUMAN BRANDING PART OF RANIERE-INSPIRED WOMEN’S GROUP”
CLARE CLAIMS TO BE A VICTIM
“The next day, Frank Parlato called to say that Clare Bronfman had gone to the assistant US district attorney in New York State’s Western District, Elizabeth Moellering, and accused him of stalking her and victimizing her and all Nxivm members.”
FRANK WAS LIKE A FIRE BREATHING DRAGON
“I boarded a flight to Buffalo. Only one man now could help me, and he wasn’t afraid.
Frank Parlato had aggregated piles of evidence over the years after countless victims had reached out to him. But would he give it to me? I wasn’t sure. He was like a fire-breathing dragon sitting on his mountain of loot. But I was also a fierce mother lioness, and I intended to go into that meeting with enough ammo to take down Keith, and I intended on making Frank my secret weapon. Frank had needed my help before, and now I needed his. I was both excited and apprehensive about our first meeting. He’s the kind of man who could elicit both those feelings from you simultaneously.
We’d already had some drama in the days leading up to our meeting. First, Frank had been sparring with one of my new lawyers. Second, I was bringing Karim and the crew with me, and Frank made it very clear that he didn’t want to be on camera. Then he canceled our meeting twice.
The latest word was that the meeting was on, but I wasn’t sure about anything else.
When we arrived at his home in the afternoon of November 4, there was no sign of Frank. We were greeted by Chitra and Debbie, two friends of his who had offered to help us with the paperwork ahead, they said, which was a good sign.
Twenty minutes later, Frank arrived, flanked by a Felliniesque posse. On his right stood a giant hiker wearing ginger chops, Hells Angels gear, and a belly like a battering ram. He was also sporting a huge hunting knife, very visibly. To Frank’s left was a very elderly gentleman sporting a chic beret and mumbling through his thick white mustache. He took copious notes on a giant legal pad the entire time he was there and then left with them.
Frank himself looked like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and a crime reporter plucked out of a 1970s newsroom. He was in his sixties, of medium height and build, wore a tweed jacket, and slicked his hair to the side. He delivered hilarious zingers, but his face remained deadpan—was he smiling or sneering? You never knew.
Frank circled us, eyeing the camera suspiciously.
“No cameras. I told you I want to focus on the work,” he said. “We have to get this done, and I don’t want any interruptions. Everyone has to be in the same headspace, or it will interfere with my concentration.”
I tried to convince him, but one look at Karim’s talent release form, and Frank announced there was no way he could agree to the terms. He wanted 100 percent control of his likeness. Then Karim put down his foot: no way could he allow that, as it would prevent him from selling the project.
I suggested we just start working with no filming, and once we got into a rhythm, we could reassess. Putting together the evidence packet was number one on the agenda. But that didn’t work, either.
“Karim’s moping about,” said Frank. “I can feel it.”
Now I put down my foot. The sun was going down, and we hadn’t gotten any work done yet. Frank was also frustrated. He suggested the camera crew go check into their hotel, and then he banished his two assistants.”
FRANK WAS THE MAN FOR THIS JOB
“Now the house was empty—it was just Frank and me—and I had a blinding headache. Was he going to help me, or was I stuck with this uncompromising man in his Addams Family house with his colorful cast of characters, never to be heard from again?
Frank suggested we move from the dining room into the living room, farther from the hope of work, where he offered to work on my back and neck to get rid of my building migraine. He started digging his thumbs into the pressure points in my neck. “Have you ever had your palms read?” he asked. He transitioned instantly from shiatsu practitioner to palm reader, grabbing one of my hands and inspecting my palm.
“You have a very well developed Mount of Venus. Did you know that?”
Where was he going with this?
He took my hands into his and started pressing into my Mounts of Venus, the fleshy areas at the base of the thumbs.
“”You are a very evolved person,” he said, looking at the lines in mv hand. “And you are strong energetically… Your health is good.” Good health, that was nice to hear. Because I felt like I was falling apart. Then Frank started to wax lyrically about how he could help me with India on an energetic level by “mixing prana”—Sanskrit for “life force. He moved his hands together as if they were blending-Apparently Frank was a Renaissance man who wore many hats.
Before I had a chance to ask what “prana mixing” entailed, Frank jumped up and announced it was time for the crew to return so we could all go sightseeing.
To Niagara Falls. At ten o’clock on a cold, drizzling night. The To Niagara Falls. At ten o’clock on a cold, drizzling night. The crew returned, and we all climbed into Frank’s silver Lexus to trudge to the Falls. It was only a thirty-minute drive, and as we got closer, we could hear the water’s roar. We parked and got out to walk a short distance to the Falls-just as the drizzle turned into a monsoon. By the time we got to the lookout point, we were drenched. Sensing that a moment was to come, Karim turned on his camera.
“You know, I used to catch rattlesnakes when I was a kid,” Frank yelled over the rumbling water. “At first, the bite was excruciating. But eventually I got used to it.”
Karim and the others looked both stunned and enthralled.
“Urn, Frank!” I shouted. “How many times did you have to get bitten before you developed a tolerance for it?”
He shrugged. “A lot.”
And standing there by the thundering waterfalls, soaking wet, I started to laugh.
Was it any wonder why Frank wasn’t afraid of Keith and his minions? He had inoculated himself against rattlesnake venom; he was like a snake medicine man! He’d harnessed nature’s poison, and it had given him a superpower to fight the Beast! Right there in that moment, I decided I liked Frank—very much. A snake master like him was exactly what I needed to help me fight this unusual battle between good and evil.
“Hey, Frank!” I yelled again. “Why were you catching the snakes in the first place, especially after they kept biting you? What kid in his right mind would do such a thing?”
Frank looked at me as if what he’d done was the most normal thing in the world for a kid to do.
“Why, to eat them, of course.”
Yes, sir. Frank was the man for this job.
THE NEXT DAY, Frank’s living room turned into a war room like mine back home.
Whatever had happened to Frank in Niagara Falls the night before—some sort of alchemic baptizing from the water from the sky mixed with the water from the Falls—had turned him into a powerhouse.
I stayed in his guest room that night, and when I walked into the war room the next morning, he was working at his computer—right where we’d left him the night before, in his damp, dark, rumpled clothes—typing up the comprehensive memo that was to go with the evidence packet. It would outline and explain every possible state or federal crime committed and law broken by Raniere and his group, and would include instructions on navigating the packet section by section, complete with ID codes and numbers.
Like magic, all sorts of other evidence began pouring in that morning from the people I’d reached out to the week before, and from Frank, who’d opened his coffers.
I was printing, Frank was printing, Chitra and Debbie were printing. The whirring of the printers and crunching of the hole punchers and staplers were nonstop.
Chitra and Debbie stacked hundreds of pages of evidence and sorted them into five giant folders lined up on a long table like an assembly line.
In the middle of our busy activity I got a tip that the so-called branding doctor, Danielle Roberts, was going to be speaking about “wellness” at the Naval Expo in New York City and Long Island over the next two days and that a hunch of women from the cult, Including India, would he accompanying her, ‘Ihey were probably going to use the expo as a recruiting venue!
I immediately alerted the producers at 20/20, who were working on a story about the cult to air in December, so they could send a reporter with a camera to confront the doctor.”
FRANKREPORT KEPT PUMPING OUT SORDID DETAILS OF THE BRANDED SLAVES
“BY MID-AUGUST, AN estimated four hundred people had left ESP, and a third center, in San Francisco, had closed. More than half of the cult had defected, from what I could gather. The Frank Report kept pumping out damning blog posts about the cult that revealed more sordid details, including a comprehensive list of fifty branded slaves. India was on the list. I felt nauseated and grief-stricken.”
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“Catherine begged me to tell my story to a reporter named Frank Parlato, who’d been in a long legal fight with the Bronfman sisters. He had once been hired by the Bronfmans to do some PR, but the Bronfmans ended up suing him. Since then, he’d made it his life’s work to uncover information about the workings of NXIVM and blog about it. Under the condition that he would not disclose my name, I told Frank about my branding experience, so that he could expose DOS in time to stop the next session. From my hotel room in Toronto, I told Frank everything. Releasing that secret was the biggest relief so far.
We were successful. The word about Frank’s blog spread in the community, and because of this heat the next branding ceremony was called off. From this point on, every move we’d make had to be highly strategic, and we would all need to be in step with each other.”
IS BRANDING REPORTED IN FRANK REPORT TRUE?
“I didn’t speak about my brand. Everyone was reading Frank’s blog, so in combination with Nippy’s words to Lauren in the Apropos parking lot, other Espians had started to put together what had happened. I was redirecting phone calls to Ariella, one of the proctors in Vancouver, who was a dear friend. She’d never been a chief enroller in NXIVM, but now— disgusted about the branding—she was very good at de-enrolling people from the community. She didn’t have any collateral on the line and was happy to tell them everything that was going on. Ariella became my mouthpiece.
She texted me: Can you please talk to Beth? She is supposed to move to Albany and doesn’t believe the Frank Report. She was referring to Frank Parlato’s blog.
Sure, I texted back. I was just dropping my child at daycare but wanted to make sure that Beth, an introverted and highly intelligent young scientist, didn’t move to Albany anytime soon. “I am at work,” she said when I called her. “Let me step out, and I’ll call you right back.”
When she did, she had many questions and I tried to direct her to the Frank Report. ‘But it can’t be true, right?’ she said. ‘I mean—branding? I’m supposed to move to Albany and this shit is scary.’”
FRANK’S ROLE IN NXIVM TAKEDOWN
“Each of us, including Frank Parlato, Barry Meier, and many other journalists over the years have played an important role in exposing the darkness behind NXIVM’s front of ‘personal development.’”
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“If O’Hara initiated the lengthy process of convincing the federal government that NXIVM was a criminal enterprise, it was a subsequent PR hire who finished the deal. Frank Parlato Jr. was a real estate developer from Buffalo who also wrote for a number of upstate print publications. A good friend of the internationally notorious political operative Roger Stone and the locally notorious political operative Steve Pigeon—the former a Republican, the latter a Democrat—Parlato was active in local politics, where he had a reputation as a bulldog who was unafraid to roll up his sleeves and play rough. Like his friends, Parlato was a character: funny, charismatic, eccentric, volatile. It was through Stone and Pigeon, both of whom had done work for NXIVM, that Parlato made the acquaintance of Keith Raniere, who hired him in 2007. He was fifty-six years old—nine years older than his employer.
This was during Keith’s “celibate monk” phase, when he told everyone he was a renunciate. “He would walk into meetings barefoot, in jeans and a t-shirt,” Parlato recalled in an interview with Oxygen in 2018. “He would spout on the meaning of life, and the women would swoon.” The groovy hippie crowd was not Parlato’s scene, but Frank got on well with Keith. He knew “Vanguard” was more sizzle than steak—and ESP, BS—but that didn’t much bother him. If lost souls felt compelled to fork over their hard-earned money to bask in the NXIVM glow, what did he care? As he told Oxygen: “Everyone seemed chipper about their life.”
Unlike O’Hara, who almost immediately balked at being asked to do anything shady, Parlato had no ethical qualms about going after Keith’s detractors. Like his friends Stone and Pigeon, he was something of a dirty trickster. The reason he was paid a whopping seventy-five grand a month was to do what more squeamish people would rather not. Besides, if Keith insisted that Toni Natalie had done this, that, and the other, why should Frank Parlato believe otherwise?
NXIVM provided Parlato with an enemies list, as well as a price list of what they’d be willing to pay if certain benchmarks were achieved. For example, disbarment was awarded a $20,000 bonus. Keith was willing to pay Bronfman money to compel the indictments of his three greatest enemies: Rick Ross, Joseph O’Hara, and me. The bounty on my head was $ 1 million. When Parlato refused to take the assignment, suggesting that Keith instead rehabilitate his name by generating positive news stories focusing on the core ESP business of human potential, Vanguard told him, according to Parlato, “Justice and ethics demand their indictments.”
Over the course of the next year, it slowly dawned on Parlato that Vanguard was a fraud. That far from being a renunciate, he spent most of his waking hours engaged in sexual activities with a veritable harem of women. That despite not owning anything or reporting any actual income, Keith almost certainly had millions squirreled away in various hiding places. That NXIVM was a house of cards propped up by the massive wealth of the Bronfman sisters, whom Keith seemed to manipulate as if they were marionettes.
In 2008, Parlato learned that Keith had spent nearly $100 million of the heiresses’ fortune—a staggering sum, even for Sara and Clare. The sisters had sunk $26 million into a Los Angeles development deal, Parlato said, and had nothing to show for it. They were millions of dollars overbudget, so they enlisted him to track down their investments and bring the project under control. In return, Parlato would receive a third of the profits. He was advanced $1 million.
Parlato asked Clare Bronfman about the tens of millions lost in commodities trades. He asked if she’d seen receipts.
Clare told him that Keith had used advanced metrics to develop a foolproof algorithm to predict the commodities market. The trades had failed not because of a miscalculation on Keith’s part, but rather because her globalist father and his Illuminati cabalists had used their vast wealth to “thwart” Keith by artificially manipulating the commodities market, which caused his trades to fail. She said this with a straight face. The Jewish heiress bought into an anti-Semitic trope—because that’s what Vanguard had told her.
Soon after, Keith Raniere fired Frank Parlato. By then, he was more than happy to bid adieu to NXIVM. But there were a million reasons to not let him get away so easily. Although Parlato had recovered quite a bit of their missing fortune, the Bronfmans demanded a refund of his $1 million payment. Parlato refused. That put Frank Parlato squarely on the enemies list, with Rick Ross, Joseph O’Hara, and me. The Bronfmans sued him. And in 2015—seven years later—the $ 1 million in escrow was a key component in a nineteen-count indictment against Parlato, alleging fraud.
Reading the document, Parlato saw that Clare Bronfman had perjured herself— almost certainly at the behest of Vanguard.
“That’s when I had an awakening,” he recalled in a 2018 interview with Vice News. “I had no idea of the depths of their dishonesty.. .If they had done this to me, then all of these enemies that supposedly had cheated them were also probably similarly innocent.” In an instant, he said, he realized that “this is more than a kooky group; this is a crazy group, a criminally insane group. And it’s not just Raniere.”
Frank Parlato regarded the indictment as an act of war. He was at war with NXIVM. And he would use every means at his disposal—his two Buffalo-area weeklies, Artvoice and the Niagara Falls Reporter; a new blog called Frank Report; his connections and money; his indomitable will; and, most of all, the knowledge that he was in the right—to prevail.
There were three things Keith Raniere did not anticipate: the Internet, a mother’s love, and Frank Parlato. All three would contribute to his downfall.”
FRANK PARLATO BECAME A POWERFUL ALLY
“I spoke with any reporter or journalist or TV producer who called. One of these was Frank Parlato, NXIVM publicist turned mortal enemy, who reached out after he launched his blog in 2015. He became a powerful ally.”
FRANK REPORTED ON DOS
“On June 19, 2017, Frank Parlato, writing on the Frank Report blog, reported on the existence of a secret group within NXIVM: Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or DOS. This sorority, Parlato explained, was a select group of emaciated women who served as the slaves, sexual and otherwise, of Keith Raniere. As if that wasn’t lurid enough, there was an aspect of DOS that got everyone’s attention: “the hallmark of the plan,” Parlato wrote, “was branding women.”
Each of the slaves had Keith’s initials branded on her skin with a cautery pen.
I had to read it three times before it sunk in.”
THE DOS GENIE WAS OUT OF THE BOTTLE
“On June 5, 2017, Frank Parlato revealed the existence of DOS on the Frank Report. The news sent shock waves through the NXIVM community. Keith hemmed and hawed, denying that he had knowledge of the society at all. It was his most devoted concubines who started it and ran it, and what was he supposed to do about it? Some Nxians believed him. Crucially, many others did not. Within the top-down framework of NXIVM, it was simply not possible that Vanguard could have been unaware of DOS. It was far more likely that the whole sordid affair was his idea.”
“Vice News did a profile of Frank Parlato, where he appears in all his eccentric glory. The DOS genie was out of the bottle.”
KEITH WOULDN’T HAVE SEEN HIS DAY IN COURT WITHOUT THE FRANK REPORT
“Toni has always said that there were three things that Keith Raniere never anticipated: the Internet, a mother’s love, and Frank Parlato. With his upstate media empire, Frank Parlato achieved more than any single outlet could have in the fight to bring Keith Raniere to justice. It is not hyperbole to say Keith wouldn’t have seen his day in court without the Frank Report.”
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Frank Parlato, la arana en la espalda
“Sabado 10 de agosto de 2019
Me encuentro en el asiento del copiloto de la camioneta que Frank Parlato ha detenido en un amplio y vacio estacionamiento situado, al aire libre, en el pueblo de Halfmoon, condado de Saratoga, Nueva York. Atras de nosotros estan sentados una amiga de Parlato y su perro, un Bearded Collie.
Salvo el can que finge dormir, los otros tres pasajeros nos hallamos nerviosos y expectantes, pues dos policias locales revisan nuestras identificaciones arriba de su patrulla. Hace cinco minutos detuvieron nuestra marcha, tras recibir el reporte de unos vecinos que nos acusaron de haber ingresado al estudio de 8 Hale Drive, el lugar en donde Keith Raniere se confinaba para estudiar y en el que tambien cometio algunos de sus atropellos sexuales. Aunque lo negamos, en realidad si miramos hacia la celebre vivienda, cuya puerta trasera se encuentra permanentemente abierta.
Luego de desayunar en el Halfmoon Diner, Parlato nos llevo a su amiga y a mi a conocer algunas de las casas en que moraban los miembros de Nxivm, separadas entre si por unas pocas cuadras. A todas les tomamos algunas fotos desde la camioneta. Frank siguio avanzando. Al llegar al estudio de Raniere, estaciono su vehiculo y nos invito a bajar. En la casa de al lado, a traves de la puerta-mosquitero, unas personas observaron nuestra llegada y, poco despues, escucharon como Parlato hizo un vano intento por abrir la puerta principal. “Hola, Keith”, grito como para despistar a los vecinos. Nos condujo por un callejon del lado izquierdo de la vivienda y llegamos al porche trasero, donde otra puerta ya no nos opuso resistencia.
Ahi estabamos, emocionados por haber cometido la travesura de ingresar a ese pequeno espacio de dos pisos y de escasos 60 metros cuadrados, el cual me hizo recordar las Casas Geo que se construyeron en muchas partes de Mexico. Parecia que alguien habia roto las paredes y el techo buscando evidencias, ahi en ese sitio tan reducido en el que el lider de la organization de culto solia pasar sus ratos de ocio. En ese espacio que se menciono en muchas ocasiones durante los testimonios convertidos en cronicas de la barbarie raniereana. En la planta baja, en la que habia libros y peliculas tiradas por todos lados, tomamos fotos con el celular; luego seguimos a Frank y subimos por una pequena escalera de caracol. Estaba tan pegada a la pared que alguien que sobrepasara los 90 kilos no hubiera podido ascender al piso de arriba.
La parte superior de la vivienda la habia visto antes en video: un pasillo de dos metros y medio de ancho por seis de largo, en el que aun se hallaban un largo escritorio y un librero que ocupaba toda una pared. Pude girar una de las sillas en la que se sentaba Raniere, en donde simulaba estar sumido en la lectura de gruesos volumenes. Atras, todavia estaba intacto el largo pizarron en el que anotaba complicadas ecuaciones y fingia estar concentrado para la camara, fuera la de Mark Vicente o la de Adrian Fernandez, quienes realizaron los materiales promocionales que el guru ordeno grabar y que los fiscales dieron a conocer durante el juicio.
Al final de la pizarra blanca podia observarse una buhardilla en la que no cabia nadie de pie, pero si un colchon circular, al que se accedia por una escalera tipo litera que describieron algunas victimas del neoyorquino. Mientras tomaba fotos de ese espacio, Parlato, de nueva cuenta en la planta baja, me apuraba para que nos fueramos. Lei algunos titulos de libros y luego dejamos la casa.
Subimos a la camioneta pensando en que ahi quedaria todo, pero minutos despues la patrulla nos detuvo para interrogarnos. Me fue dificil mantener la calma al ver el nerviosismo de Frank, pues el sabia que para la justicia estadounidense no eramos simplemente unos periodistas investigando asuntos relativos a su profesion. El mismo Parlato ha denunciado la indulgencia con la que la autoridad local trato siempre al guru, cuya imagen volvio a aparecer sobre nuestras cabezas. 6Y si continuaba teniendo bajo control a los uniformados? Existia, por supuesto, la ligera posibilidad de que las Bronfman les siguieran repartiendo dinero e instrucciones. Si ese era el caso, estabamos perdidos.
Minutos despues los oficiales volvieron e “invitaron” a Frank y a su amiga a bajar del auto y, desde mi lugar, pude oir como mis dos colegas de nuevo juraron que no habiamos ingresado a la casa de Raniere y que nos habiamos limitado solo a tomar fotos de los exteriores. Como no tenian forma de probar lo contrario, pues lo primero que hicimos fue borrar las evidencias de nuestros celulares, los uniformados nos devolvieron nuestros documentos, no sin antes advertirnos: “Si continuan investigando este caso y alguna vez regresan a rondar por aqui, hagan el favor de avisarnos para que los escoltemos”. Parlato y su amiga subieron a la camioneta y, al retirarnos, no dejamos de repetir con sinceridad, durante tres minutos: “Thank you, God”.
Ya mas calmado, Frank nos lleva a conocer la casa matriz de la empresa en Clifton Park, a 15 minutos en auto de donde vivian los miembros de Nxivm en Halfmoon. Nos advierte que tiene llaves para entrar a las oficinas por si se nos antoja. Pero su amiga y yo, aun con rastros de adrenalina de la anterior incursion, coincidimos en que no es el mejor momento para intentarlo.
Frank Parlato ingreso a trabajar como publicista de Nxivm en septiembre de 2007, aunque solo duro seis meses ahi. Las hermanas Clare y Sara Bronfman lo contrataron con el argumento de que “querian tener al mejor publicista del mundo”, pero lo despidieron cuando se dieron cuenta de que el no cubria las exigencias. Aun asi, durante el tiempo que permanecio en la empresa, le pagaron como si realmente lo fuera: 70 mil dolares al mes.
En 2011 Clare Bronfman presento una demanda penal en su contra, que ratifico en 2015. Primero lo hizo en la Corte del Distrito Sur de Nueva York, en la que Bronfman alego que no habia un contrato que justificara los honorarios de Parlato por 1 millon de dolares. Aunque despues, en una demanda penal en la Corte del Distrito Oeste, la misma Clare se contradijo al afirmar que si existia ese contrato.
Y asi fue como Frank, de ser un exempleado, paso a convertirse en rival de la organization. Como respuesta a la que el dice es una “falsa acusacion”, fundo en 2015 Frank Report, sitio web que le ha ayudado a defenderse de los ataques lanzados por el clan Raniere-Bronfman.
– La pagina fue, ademas, pionera en destejer el entramado del grupo sexual secreto DOS que initio ese mismo ano y, a su vez, se convirtio en el espacio predilecto para quienes, desde el anonimato, buscaban acusar al guru y denunciar sus practicas. Al dar la cara por ellos, Frank Report devino en el sitio ideal para la filtration de fotos, documentos y videos exclusivos.
“Con Parlato, se echaron una arana en la espalda”, decia con su traditional acento norteno Alejandro Junco de la Vega, presidente y ejecutivo del Grupo Reforma, quien coincidio con Frank en el desprecio que ambos sentian por Raniere. La verdad es que no hay description que encuadre mejor con la labor informativa de Parlato — quizas atropellada y que, en muchas ocasiones, no respeta las mas elementales reglas periodisticas o que suele ofender con motes peyorativos a los personajes de esta telenovela, pero que no deja de ser un fiel reflejo de su personalidad— que la de alguien apasionado, impulsivo y totalmente comprometido con la causa de hundir a Raniere y Nxivm.
Si bien ha concedido que en sus relatos transmite resentimiento, en algiin momento Frank argumento que este al menos tuvo como alimento el deseo genuino de “evitar que mas personas fueran reclutadas en esa empresa criminal”.
“Cuando lees a ese Parlato parece que estuvieras viendo cuentos de ficcion, pero al final mas del 90% de todas sus investigaciones son ciertas”, me dijo otro de los exmiembros de Nxivm que entreviste.
“Muchos de los involucrados me piden que los borre de mis articulos, pero no me ofrecen nada a cambio”, se queja Frank. Agrega que casi todos los que participaron en los actos criminales “del monstruo” Keith ahora simplemente desean desaparecer de la historia de Nxivm. Como si eso fuera tan sencillo.
Frank asegura que el expresidente mexicano Carlos Salinas de Gortari lo amenazo de muerte a traves de un mensaje anonimo enviado a Frank Report el 19 de julio de 2018: “Tenga en cuenta que los investigadores creen que los Salinas probablemente enviaron a un equipo de golpeadores al cruce fronterizo de las Cataratas del Niagara para asesinar a Frank Parlato; esto no es un juego”. No tomo la advertencia en serio, pues considero que si los investigadores hubieran sabido que intentaban matarlo, ya se lo habrian compartido. Pero doce dias despues le enviaron un correo desde la direccion <firstname.lastname@example.org> en donde le expresaban: “Frank: Supongo que es seguro contactarte directamente y no voy a enfatizar demasiado. Hay una orden activa de eliminarlo y la mafia rusa se encargara de su ejecucion”. La persona que redacto el correo le ofrecia darle informacion para salvar su vida a cambio de un bitcoin, que en ese momento tenia un valor de poco mas de 7 mil dolares. Parlato termino por ignorar y hasta se burlo de ambos mensajes.
Sin embargo, su preocupacion por la figura de Carlos Salinas parece autentica. Durante nuestra cita en el Halfmoon Diner, antes de despedirnos me pregunta si en la actualidad el expresidente mantiene su poder. Para tranquilizarlo, le aclaro que con el nuevo mandatario, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, la fuerza de Salinas se halla en su punto mas bajo. Le digo que eso no significa que deba menospreciarlo y bajar la guardia, sobre todo si se siente genuinamente amenazado por el.
Lo que ha quedado patente es que, desde Frank Report y dejandose llevar por su animadversion y afan de justicia, a donde lo empujaron las amenazas de la dirigencia de Nxivm, Parlato ha dado a los Salinas trato de criminales. “^Carlos Salinas usa sus influencias para salvar a Raniere?”, se pregunto en una publication el 3 de febrero de 2019. De igual modo, nueve dias despues, aprovechando el veredicto que encontro culpable a Joaquin Guzman Loera, titulo a uno de sus reportajes: “El traficante de nivel medio El Chapo declarado culpable de todos los cargos: sus jefes, incluido Salinas, permanecen libres”. En uno mas del 22 de mayo de 2018 cabeceo: “Los mayores criminales de Mexico: la familia de Salinas de Gortari”. Asimismo, las notas en las que menciona a Emiliano y a Cecilia Salinas Occelli no han sido mas generosas que las dedicadas al padre de ambos, por lo que un supuesto enojo de esa familia hacia Parlato seria comprensible. Lo que a el lo tranquiliza es el hecho de que la investigacion de la Corte del Distrito Este de Nueva York en contra de Emiliano de algun modo lo beneficia, pues “un movimiento en contra mia podria ser contraproducente para el”.
Algo en lo que Frank Parlato parece estar completamente errado es en su opinion de que Emiliano Salinas era serio candidato a la presidencia de Mexico. No hay evidencia alguna de que al hijo del exmandatario le interesara siquiera participar en la funcion publica. Mas bien, al ser uno de los artifices de Nxivm y de las empresas que fundo junto con su socio Alex Betancourt, parecia querer tomar distancia del camino que eligio su polemico padre.
Otra cosa era que Emiliano viera a los politicos como potenciales clientes para sus cursos de coaching en Executive Success Programs (ESP). Eso nada tenia que ver con integrarse a la vida partidista y escalar posiciones en la administration piiblica. Sin embargo, es altamente probable que Raniere si sofiara con verlo en la silla presidential, aunque por supuesto ignoraba los tejemanejes y los movimientos internos de los partidos mexicanos, donde a Salinas junior nunca se le vio figurar, primer requisito para ser tornado en cuenta. En este sentido, causa gratia lo escrito por Catherine Oxenberg en su libro sobre el tema:
Keith habia estado jugando y posicionando a su devoto seguidor Emiliano Salinas como su peon durante anos, mientras la familia de Emi lo preparaba para seguir los pasos politicos de su padre. Por lo que escuche de desertores, el supuesto plan era llevar a Emi a su cargo en las proximas elecciones presidenciales de Mexico en el verano de 2018 para que los miembros de alto rango de ESP y Nxivm tuvieran poder en el escenario politico mundial. Su padre, Carlos, usaria sus metodos maquiavelicos para asegurar la victoria electoral de su hijo, y luego Keith usaria a Emi como su titere y gobernaria Mexico. Una afirmacion de ese talante ofende, en primer termino, a la legendaria inteligencia de Salinas de Gortari, quien nunca se atreveria a intentar imponer como candidato a la presidencia a un muerto politico, aunque se tratara de su propio hijo.
De ser cierta la molestia de los Salinas, no serian los unicos fastidiados con Parlato. Desde 2015 por Frank Report han desfilado infinidad de nombres de mexicanos involucrados con Nxivm, sobre todo los que ocupaban puestos ejecutivos. Tambien han salido a relucir perfiles de las mujeres que se integraron ya al haren, ya al circulo sexual secreto DOS. O que estaban en vias de hacerlo. Al consultar el sitio web, al menos una tercera parte de las notas tiene relacion con Mexico. Por ejemplo, en uno de sus reportajes, fechado el 3 de agosto de 2019, el periodista revela informacion importante en la “Lista de mexicanos que se mantuvieron con Vanguard hasta finales de 2017: dlo respaldaran ahora?”. Y nombra a media centena de los que, ya con Raniere en fuga y a traves del hasthtag #OrgullosamenteESP, seguian pensando que lo publicado por The New York Times era un invento y que su lider pronto quedaria en libertad. En otra nota, “Los 150 con mas alto rango en Nxivm”, refiere que, del total de seguidores mas fieles de Keith Raniere, 88 (58%) eran mexicanos o se habian integrado a la organization en ese pais. Asimismo, en Frank Report se puede entrever el arraigo y la devotion al guru, a quien seguian defendiendo incluso semanas antes de que fuera detenido en marzo de 2018.
Si a alguien debemos que en Mexico se comenzara a tratar el tema de Nxivm y sus ligas con personajes de ese pais, es precisamente a Frank Parlato, cuyo portal ha sido citado por medios tan influyentes como Aristegui Noticias, Milenio, El Universal y por columnistas tan leidos como Salvador Garcia Soto o Francisco Rodriguez. En Estados Unidos lo menciono The New York Times —en el gran reportaje que desencadeno el fin de Nxivm—, pero tambien los medios Rolling Stone, Vice News, Daily Mail, CNN, Fox News y People Magazine, entre otros, que reconocen a Parlato —el tipo que me dice salud con su limonada en Halfmoon Diner— como el unico necio que siguio machacando y denunciando a Raniere en un momento en que todos decidieron voltear hacia otro lado, hasta que por fin el asunto se volvio a calentar.
Otro medio digno de mencion es el que encabeza Big League Politics (BLP), en cuyo sitio se abordan temas relacionados con la funcion publica. BLP retomo una historia inicialmente publicada en Frank Report, en la cual se evidenciaban los vinculos entre la senadora democrata por Nueva York, Kirsten Gillibrand, y Nxivm. Cuando estaba preparando su precandidatura a la presidencia, a la cual renuncio a finales de agosto de 2019, Gillibrand le dijo al New York Post que nunca habia oido hablar de Nxivm, hasta que se publico la historia en The New York Times a finales de 2017.
Para Parlato y BLP lo dicho por la senadora era una flagrante mentira, pues aunque la infinidad de portadas del Times Union de Albany con el tema de Nxivm le hubieran pasado de noche, cuesta trabajo creer que no supiera que su padre, el abogado Douglas Paul Rutnik, trabajo por un tiempo para Raniere o que su madrastra llego a involucrarse en los cursos ejecutivos. Tambien es posible que Gillibrand ignorara que la sefiora con la que departio durante una recaudacion de fondos para la campana de Hillary Clinton era Nancy Salzman, la presidenta de Nxivm. Lo que si resulta inverosimil es que se le hubiera escapado el hecho de que algunos miembros de la familia Bronfman, incluida Clare, hicieron contribuciones a la campana que la llevo al Senado. En el mismo reportaje los de BLP admiten: “Parlato es el informante que hizo volar la tapa del caso, incluida la revelation de que el lider del culto en Nxivm, Keith Raniere, estaba marcando a las mujeres con sus iniciales”. Pese a los reconocimientos y el triunfo que para el significo la captura y consignation de Raniere, Parlato no se encuentra tranquilo. El dia que nos encontramos vestia un pantalon corto gris, playera negra y tenis. Mientras hablabamos note las subitas alteraciones que le provocaba saber que a Clare Bronfman le habian dado una pena inicial de dos aiios, condena a la que se sumo una multa del 3% de su patrimonio. El dice, con mucha razon, que la menor de las herederas de Seagram cometio infinidad de crimenes para Keith y teme que, al quedar en libertad, busque rearmar la empresa y, por supuesto, volver al juego de las demandas contra los rivales, entre los cuales el tiene un lugar destacado.
Dice Parlato que la seiiora Bronfman ya habia contratado para eso a Michael Avenatti, uno de los abogados con peor fama en Estados Unidos, acusado de fraude por varios de sus clientes. “6Por que a las Bronfman, Clare y Sara, no les han aplicado el delito de perjurio por recurrir a cargos inventados para buscar encarcelar a alguien como lo intentaron conmigo?”, se cuestiona. En una reflexion que compartio con sus lectores, ademas se pregunta como es posible que la misma Sara Bronfman no haya sido acusada de nada y que ahora se halle en Francia en compailia de su esposo, con quien vive muy tranquila mientras desarrolla el proyecto de un centro experimental similar al fallido Rainbow Cultural Garden que invent 6 Raniere.
Parlato especula sobre lo que puede suceder con “ese dueto feo” de Emiliano Salinas y Alex Betancourt, quienes “piensan que con una disculpa se pueden liberar del caso” —cuando no deberia ser asi—, aunque hayan amenazado con encarcelar a personas mediante cargos falsos. Tambien se cuestiona por el destino de “los mexicanos ricos que siguen” dirigiendo Nxivm, en clara referenda a Edgar y Omar Boone, [redacted], Jimena, Carola y Loreta Garza Davila, fieles seguidores que han asimilado las ensefianzas de Raniere y que han sabido mantenerse en la impunidad, pero que tambien se han beneficiado de “las ganancias inesperadas de la empresa criminal”.
Y, por supuesto, se pregunta por lo que ocurrira con los oscuros personajes que en Estados Unidos hicieron funcionar a Nxivm y a los que no alcanzo el brazo de la ley. Habla de Esther Chiappone, quien supuestamente administra un seguro de esquema piramidal para financiar a los miembros de la empresa. Menciona a Jim Del Negro, a la esposa de Allison Mack, Nicki Clyne, a los hermanos Elliot, a Samantha LeBaron, a Michelle Hatchette, a Danielle Roberts, la doctora que con una pluma marcaba a las “esclavas” de Keith, y a Brandon Porter, el otro medico que experimentaba con las victimas, por nombrar a algunos.
Parlato esta enterado de que mas de uno ha puesto en duda su capacidad como periodista. Tambien sabe que es atacado y menospreciado por los rivales a los que denuncia en su sitio, pero se defiende: “La Corte Federal del Distrito Este de Nueva York probo todo lo publicado en Frank Report, cosas que a veces nadie creyo: Las marcas a las esclavas, el chantaje a los enemigos y el trafico de humanos”.
Como la amiga de Frank vive en Albany, accede a llevarme hasta alia. Al abandonar el estacionamiento del Halfmoon Diner, Frank nos escolta en su camioneta. Cuando llegamos al cruce que el debe tomar para dirigirse al norte de Nueva York, la “arafia en la espalda” de Nxivm nos toca el claxon y se despide efusivamente.
Mientras tanto, su amiga trata de encender uno de esos cigarros corrientes que se apagan si dejas de aspirarlos. Frente a ella, la luz del semaforo ya se puso en verde, pero no se ha dado cuenta.”
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