Private eye lands in public trouble

State officials say Rombom intimidated witnesses in NXIVM case

Albany Times-Union/September 17, 2012

Albany - A private investigator has been charged by state officials with professional misconduct for allegedly threatening and intimidating witnesses in violation of the law in a NXIVM-related legal proceeding, according to a complaint from the Department of State.

As a result, Steven P. Rombom must appear before a state administrative law tribunal on Oct. 25. He faces the potential loss of his private investigator license.

Rombom, 53, could not be reached for comment, but his lawyer called the charges "patently false."

The Department of State's Division of Licensing Services alleges that Rombom, whose last known address was in Brooklyn, displayed a lack of "good moral character" for actions discovered by state investigators.

"During the department's investigation it was confirmed that Mr. Rombom engaged in activity constituting witness intimidation, whereby he threatened four or more persons with such actions including but not limited to criminal arrest if they proceeded to testify in a high profile civil case in the Albany, N.Y., area involving a self-improvement organization (NXIVM, Inc.)," the document states.

Investigators said they received complaints about Rombom's behavior from potential witnesses in a bankruptcy matter.

The investigation began after friends of Barbara Bouchey said they were approached by Rombom in 2010 and that he tried to intimidate them. Bouchey, of Saratoga County, is a former top member of NXIVM who left the group in 2009.

Rombom was used to serve subpoenas, according to a 2010 interview with the William Sabino, a lawyer with Damon & Morey. The firm was representing Clare and Sara Bronfman, leaders of Colonie-based NXIVM. Bouchey had been a financial adviser to the Bronfmans.

Rombom's lawyer, Fred Sosinsky, said in an interview that the private investigator was retained for the assignment in the Albany area by a California lawyer - whom he would not identify - working for the Bronfman sisters "in an assortment of matters."

The Times Union reported in 2010 that Bouchey's friends said they had been served a subpoena by Rombom and that he used intimidation tactics. They said in affidavits at the time that they did not understand why they were subpoenaed for a case involving Joseph O'Hara, a former NXIVM business associate who has been involved in legal disputes with the company and with the Bronfmans.

Sosinsky said whatever Rombom said to the people being subpoenaed was not intimidation or threatening. "Certainly people were interviewed and anything that was imparted to those people during the course of the interviews about what Mr. Rombom believed they were involved in were based on facts developed in the course of the investigation," Sosinsky said. He added that Rombom still lives in New York City.

A state complaint against Rombom and his company, Pallorium Inc., alleges violations of law by his business practices. Nothing in the document suggests that the law firms or clients using Rombom directed his alleged actions, or engaged in any misconduct themselves.

Among its allegations, the state said Pallorium advertised on the Internet that it maintained an investigative team, but state officials could find no such thing. The state also said that Rombom advertised and introduced himself under the assumed name of "Rambam" - "further evidence of his untrustworthiness and/or incompetency," according to the state.

The department also says Rombom misinformed it by not divulging that his pistol permit had been revoked in New York City in July 2008 because he did not live or work in the city, and that the address he had given as his was false. He also had not provided timely notice of his arrest in 2006, the document states. The complaint does not detail that arrest, although other public records show Rombom was once accused of impersonating an FBI agent, a charge that was dropped by the federal government.

State investigators say they had trouble locating his company and were denied permission to enter "the alleged business address." Certified letters sent to his given address were returned unclaimed.

Investigators said Rombom's business dissolved in January 2011 after failure to file franchise tax returns and MTA surcharge reports, or to pay those taxes and surcharges. Even so, Rombom sought to renew his license after the dissolution.

The complaint says Rombom faces revocation or suspension of his license, a reprimand or a fine of up to $1,000.

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