In October 2003, Saratoga Springs based financial planner Barbara Bouchey told a reporter from the local daily that the training people receive from her company, Nxivm, gives them results that they "have never experienced before. . . . People can't explain it."
Bouchey was one of Nxivm's most prominent and active local boosters. Inside the operation, she was a key player, a leader within the management, and high in the organization's seemingly arbitrary and strict hierarchy. According to sources, Bouchey was even the original organizer of Vanguard Week, the weeklong celebration surrounding the birth of Nxivm's founder, Keith Raniere.
She was also Raniere's girlfriend.
Now, after nearly seven years with the company, Bouchey has become a pariah among her former colleagues, and has joined the embattled ranks of Nxivm critics. Her explosive affidavit filed earlier this year is a key document in a court battle being waged over a California real-estate deal between a former business associate of Raniere's and Seagram's heiresses-and Nxivm benefactors-Clare and Sara Bronfman. In the affidavit, Bouchey alleged that Raniere is a compulsive gambler who burned through roughly $65 million of the Bronfmans' considerable inheritance on commodities trading.
On June 11, Bouchey, a former financial adviser whose firm dealt solely with clients with at least $1 million to invest, declared bankruptcy. She is claiming $2.5 million in undisputed liabilities, including a personal loan of $1.3 million from a longtime Nxivm member, Michael Sutton. Among her disputed creditors, she listed her former clients the Bronfman sisters.
Bouchey is arguing in her filing that she was driven into bankruptcy by the Bronfman sisters, who have chased her through four court cases in three states in an effort to extract any and all documents generated while she managed some of their financial affairs. The sisters are claiming that Bouchey has disseminated these documents to the press and to hostile lawyers in an effort to embarrass, discredit and injure them.
Bouchey is arguing that she has already surrendered all original documentation to the sisters, and that all she has left are copies-copies, she claims, that she is legally bound to keep. Bouchey alleged that the reason the sisters are so adamant to secure these records is because they contain evidence that the sisters have engaged "in a myriad of activities that are questionable and, in some cases, potentially illegal."
According to a filing made by Bouchey's lawyer, Richard Croak, "Clare and Sara Bronfman are members of the Nxivm cult. The debtor, Barbara Bouchey, is a prior cult member. Over the years it has been the cult's modus operandi to harass former members with frivolous law suits."
Multiple attempts by Metroland to contact representatives of Nxivm have gone un-returned.
Bouchey has chosen not to speak with the press, yet multiple sources attest that she has contracted the service of a New York City-based public-relations firm in an effort to control her image. Numerous national media outlets have begun to gain interest in the story of the millionaire heiresses and their financial backing of an alleged cult. Sources say that reporters representing New York magazine, Vanity Fair, and even 20/20 have begun preliminary research. A reporter from Canada's Maclean's is also working on the story.
The courtroom is not a new place for Nxivm's critics and former members to find themselves. Rick Ross, the controversial "cult deprogrammer," has been in legal battles with Nxivm for years. Joe O'Hara, a former Nxivm employee, declared bankruptcy after being accused of stealing $2 million from the Bronfman sisters. According to sources, Susan Dones, owner of a Nxivm training center in Tacoma, Wash., and her business partner are preparing to declare bankruptcy.
And Toni Natalie, a former girlfriend of Raniere's, spent eight years and four months in bankruptcy court, as she put it, defending herself from Raniere. The case ended in her favor, with Judge Robert Littlefield, the same judge whom Bouchey is before, concluding, "This matter smacks of a jilted fellow's attempt at revenge or retaliation against his former girlfriend."
"It is my belief, and in part the belief of the court, that this action against Barbara is being directed by Keith," Natalie said, "in order to keep her tied up in the legal system for as long as possible. That's exactly what they did to me."
Natalie alleged that Raniere uses the court system-and other people's money-to win wars of attrition with his enemies. "With the many high-powered lawyers and the many legal battles they have brought on, are in now, and most likely will continue, this seems to be their weapon of choice to silence people."