A close lieutenant of NXIVM founder Keith Raniere has broken with his Colonie-based life-coaching enterprise and fled with her young son from his inner circle, according to court papers filed as part of a federal lawsuit.
"I have completely left NXIVM and New York," says an email message said to have been sent by Kristin M. Keeffe; the email was quoted in court papers filed by New Jersey attorney Peter Skolnik, the lawyer for Rick Ross, leader of an organization called the Cult Education Institute. Ross has been sued by NXIVM, which denies that it is a cult, for publicizing portions of its training program.
That email and others alleged to have been sent by Keeffe and quoted in the court filing include numerous untested allegations, and refer to Keeffe's turning over to the authorities "evidence of massive criminal conduct" by Raniere as well as NXIVM President Nancy Salzman and Clare Bronfman, who oversees its operations.
The email allegedly written by Keeffe, formerly the legal liaison for NXIVM, was sent to Skolnik. Ross has countersued Raniere, Salzman and Keeffe for invasion of privacy.
Skolnik filed a petition on April 26 in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., to dismiss Keeffe from the countersuit. In the petition, Skolnik inserted parts of recent electronic communications he said he has had with Keeffe since her disappearance from Saratoga County at some point in the past few months.
In turn, Robert Crockett, Keeffe's lawyer in the Ross case, filed "an emergency request" to the court on April 27 seeking to seal Skolnik's petition. The court has not yet acted on the request. Crockett also represents NXIVM and has represented some of its top leaders, including Bronfman, in other litigation.
In his letter, Crockett told the court Keeffe is in hiding as the result of a custody dispute with Raniere involving her son, Gaelyn.
Crockett wrote that he could not verify that the emails cited by Skolnik actually came from Keeffe. He noted that Skolnik has received privileged emails between him and his client. He added that, based on his review of the email headers, the messages allegedly sent by Keeffe discharging Crockett from representing her came from Skolnik's firm. "I don't know if these emails are hers or Mr. Skolnik's fictions," he wrote to the court.
Skolnik wrote followup letters to the court; one says he and his firm had nothing to do with creating any emails that Crockett received from Keeffe.
He also said he understands why NXIVM lawyers might be concerned about Keeffe — who he described as a "former acolyte" — and any materials she might possess. "NXIVM ... knows that Ms. Keeffe is perhaps the one person who possesses sufficient knowledge and evidence to drive a stake through its heart," Skolnik wrote.
Keeffe, 44, has spent more than half her life associated with Raniere, 53, and his various business ventures, such as Consumers' Buyline Inc., a Clifton Park buying club that closed in the 1990s. The company had been investigated by the New York Attorney General's Office 20 years ago.
State officials had accused Raniere of operating Consumers' Buyline as an illegal "chain distributor scheme." Without acknowledging any "fraudulent, illegal or deceptive acts," Raniere in 1996 signed a consent order with the New York attorney general agreeing to be permanently barred from "promoting, offering or granting participation in a chain distribution scheme" in violation of New York state law.
Keeffe lived with Raniere for years in a Halfmoon housing complex with a Clifton Park mailing address, according to several acquaintances and public records. After becoming a mother almost eight years ago, she moved into a unit two doors away from his residence, records show.
Raniere has been identified in court cases involving NXIVM litigation as the founder of the "rational inquiry" curriculum and philosophical movement. He is referred to reverently by NXIVM students as "Vanguard." He has been identified in court documents from adversaries in sharply critical terms.
Lawyers representing NXIVM, Bronfman, Raniere and Salzman had no comment or did not respond to email messages from the Times Union.
In Skolnik's court filing, the email correspondent he identified as Keeffe said she fled because she was concerned about Gaelyn's welfare.
"I would like to settle with Rick and team up with him if he would have me," Keeffe allegedly wrote. "All the worst things you know about NXIVM are true but there is so much more horrendous things going on even you will be horrified."
She wrote that she mistrusts Crockett: "I would like to remove him as my attorney and demand he remove himself from any dealings with NXIVM or the Bronfman's (sic) because I am no longer allied with them."
In his declaration to the court, Crockett stated that Keeffe "likely mistrusts me as I also represent NXIVM."
In her alleged correspondence with Skolnik, Keeffe said she has taken steps to fire Crockett and instructed him and an associate, attorney John Falzone, to not share information with Bronfman or NXIVM "as they are involved in continuing ongoing criminal conduct including but not limited to psychological and sexual abuse and imprisonment of multiple illegal aliens for the last decade."
The court filing indicates that Keeffe cannot communicate easily. She asked Skolnik, in the purported email, to thank Ross for applying "pressure" on her. Without it, she wrote, "me and my son would have been lost forever."
"You need to know now the reality of what the trainings and Keith do .... He is so dangerous you would not believe it. ... He has gotten way more lethal in the last 4 years too," Skolnik said Keeffe wrote, according to the filing.
Skolnik told Judge Mark Falk in Newark that he would share more of the emails privately if Falk is interested.
In an interview, Ross said he was shocked Keeffe discontinued her affiliation with Raniere but believes the emails came from her.
He had seen her several times during his eight-year legal dispute with NXIVM. "I had regarded Ms. Keeffe as one of the most intimate and close confidantes of Keith Raniere," Ross said. "When I saw her at depositions and legal proceedings she seemed absolutely devoted to Mr. Raniere. And she was involved in pursuing me."
Ross has studied NXIVM, which has training outlets in New York, Mexico and elsewhere. He said he is writing about the organization in a book he is planning to self-publish later this year.
"Of all the people to think of Keith Raniere losing — that would turn against him, that would reject him, that would spurn him — probably near the end of my list was Kristin Keeffe," said Ross. " ... She must know a great deal. She was absolutely in the inner circle."
According to the Skolnik petition, Keeffe wrote to him after a state police investigator alerted him that she had left NXIVM with her child and might contact the lawyer. The trooper said she had provided him documents he believed the lawyer should see.
"The state police arranged a series of safe houses for me to stay in with Gaelyn and they moved us out of the Northeast," Keeffe is said to have written. "I have full sole legal custody of Gaelyn. Keith was experimenting on him. I had to get Gaelyn away."
Skolnik's filing includes a passage in which Keeffe purportedly calls the district attorneys offices in Saratoga and Albany counties "compromised" regarding NXIVM.
Skolnik said his filing speaks for itself. In responding to Crockett's appeal to seal his letter, he wrote that Ross "now views Ms. Keeffe and her child as victims of the very organization whose objectives she previously served."
Crockett told the court he was surprised on April 11 to be notified by Raniere, through a process server, about a child custody dispute with Keeffe. "I do not represent her in those family law proceedings," he said. "Raniere claims that Ms. Keeffe is in hiding from his process servers."
Crockett also claimed that Skolnik had improper communications with Keeffe while she was still being represented by Crockett.
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