By Araceli Cruz
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
According to NXIVM spokesman Robertson, company leaders were appalled to learn what Aviv was up to. Robertson also claimed that O'Hara is a corrupt lawyer who is sure to be eventually disbarred and accused him of embezzling $250,000 in NXIVM funds. O'Hara cryptically replied that the matter is the subject of litigation, and that the lawsuit is on the eve of being settled amicably.
Robertson says that NXIVM was barely in contact with Aviv, whom O'Hara hired on its behalf for entirely legal investigations. "We knew nothing here about a sting," he said. "We had no participation in any sting. We found out about it afterward. What we saw was, a corrupt attorney hires a corrupt private investigator. . . . We certainly didn'tand would notauthorize illegal activities. That was his doing, and I understand that's his nature. He's pretty much a loose cannon."
When asked if he regretted hiring Aviv, Robertson replied: "How can you not regret hiring the guy who would pad his hours, he'd fabricate, he'd create stories that he couldn't document, and behind your back he creates fantastic programs like, uh, we later found out he was going to do some kind of insane sting kind of deal. . . . We're certainly not responsible, nor do we condone this type of activity. Aviv did it, there seems to be no doubt. How he did, I don't know. I heard that he was rummaging through garbage."
Ross's battle with NXIVM has received publicity elsewhere, but in the course of researching Aviv's past and his involvement with Raniere, the Voice learned that this wasn't the only time the corporate spy was asked to pursue one of Raniere's detractors.
Toni Natalie was just a mom with a 10th-grade education, and all she wanted to do was leave Raniere behind her. But according to her and O'Hara, Aviv was hired to go after her as well.
Natalie first met Raniere when he was running Consumers Buyline. She and her husband had sold a bumper crop of commissions, and Raniere allegedly invited them up to Albany for an awards ceremony. According to Natalie, Raniere became attracted to her, offered her intensive counseling to help her quit smoking, and promptly manipulated her into breaking up her marriage. "Before I knew it, he had me convinced that my husband was cheating on me and was having an affair with my nanny," Natalie recalls. "It was all a lie . . . the next thing I knew, I was divorced and living in Albany."
Natalie claims that she secretly dated Raniere for a while, but she became unnerved by all the women he kept around him, as well as his odd promises that she would bear his child and that this child would save the world. "So I tried to break it off with him," she says. That's when the stalking started. Raniere's followers, Natalie says, "broke into my house; they would come and ring the doorbell at all hours of the day or night. They would tell me that I had to come with them, that he was dying, that if I didn't stay with him, he was going to die. . . . They tortured meI got down to, I don't know, a hundred pounds."
After six months of this, Natalie says she returned to Raniere and dated him until 1999, when she tried to leave him again and open a restaurant in Rochester. And once again, she claims, the torment resumed. "When I finally did leave, they would break into my house and flip pictures upside down, they'd unmake my bed, steal clothes out of my closet. . . . They stole my mail, they shut off my phone, they shut off my electricity. They called me up and asked me if I knew where my son was. . . . They used to stand in front of the restaurant for hours, telling my waitresses, 'You don't understand, she has to come backshe's the chosen one!' "
Eventually, Natalie says, the hounding faded away, and she set out to rebuild her life. But last summer, Joseph O'Hara contacted Natalie and faxed her a document that might, he said, be of interest to her. The document, which Natalie provided to the Voice, was a January 14, 2005, invoice from Interfor to O'Hara, in which Aviv and his associates agreed to follow Natalie, spy on her in her house, and dig into her financial records. "Interfor will conduct a discreet, confidential investigation on Toni Natalie," the invoice read. "Interfor will monitor the current activities of Ms. Natalie at her house and certain other residences as discussed. . . . Interfor will conduct an asset investigation of Toni Natalie focusing on current holdings as well as possible fraudulent activity (i.e., using her dead aunt's credit cards)." O'Hara confirms that he sent the invoice to Natalie.
Only now, Natalie says, has she been able to discuss this ordeal in detail. "They're scary, scary people," she says of NXIVM. "I can talk about it now, but up until three years ago, I was a babbling idiot. . . . You have no idea. If a door slammed, I'd be stuck on the top of the ceiling."
Asked about Natalie's allegations, NXIVM spokesman Robertson says that Aviv was merely retained to investigate whether Natalie committed fraud when she filed for bankruptcy in 1999. "I couldn't tell you what Aviv did with this Natalie woman, except that he was certainly not authorized by us to do anything other than to find out if she's committing fraud," he says. As for her claims that Raniere and his associates stalked and terrorized her, Robertson replies that Natalie is a deranged felon who embezzled a fortune and defrauded numerous banks.