Mar 14 • 26M

Michael Volpe Investigates Podcast The Impromptu: Episode 34 an Interview with Investigative Journalist Frank Parlato

He dishes on NXIVM, Connecticut family court and more.

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Frank Parlato from IMDB

Independent investigative journalist Frank Parlato joined me as the latest guest on my podcast.

Recently, Parlato has dedicated a lot of time on his website to the Connecticut family court system, but he is also widely credited with breaking the NXIVM story and being instrumental in helping to put its leader Keith Ranieri in jail.

Parlato said an interesting development in that case is that the defense is preparing to accuse in a court filing the Federal Bureau of Investigation of tampering with evidence.

“He {Ranieri} alleges that the FBI tampered with the evidence used to convict him.” He told me. “It promises to be interesting. There are many people who are dismissing it as the desperate attempt of a person who had just been sentenced to one hundred twenty-years in prison, but what’s significant about it is his lawyers and his friends have developed an impressive array of technical evidence- computer based evidence- that purports to show that the FBI may have changed the dates of some photographs and/or possibly moved some photographs to a device that the seized which was the foundation of the most important charge.”

More recently, Parlato has done about twenty stories on the divorce of Chris Ambrose and Karen Riordan.

I recently had Karen as a guest on a podcast.

Here is Wayne Dolcefino’s story on her case.

Even though Karen was the primary caretaker, while her ex-husband, Chris Ambrose, was mostly living a separate life, about two years ago a Connecticut judge ordered Chris to have sole custody and it’s been about two years since Karen has seen her three children.

Frank gave me a broader view of Karen’s case.

“He and his wife had maybe two- three- million in assets: in marital assets. They accumulated this during their marriage and they would, by law, be joint owners of these assets. Karen was a stay at home mother; she devoted thirteen years of her life to raising three adopted children and that was their arrangement.” He told me. “I believe the reason why he is fighting for the custody of the kids, has less to do with wanting to be with the kids- love the children or raise them. I think it has more to do with his confiscating all the marital assets, not having to pay alimony or child support.”

Frank has also done an in-depth article on the case of Kelly Smith-Grohs, another remarkable Connecticut story in which a biological mom has lost custody to a step-mother.

In this case, Kelly’s ex husband Bill died, but his widow maneuvered the courts in her favor. Here’s part of a story by Frank.

On January 26, Vicki helped her dying husband execute a new will on his death bed, witnessed by ‘friends’.

It seems that Vicki might have devised or written the terms of the new will. She had Bill give most of his estate to his children but to be held in trust that Vicki alone controlled.

Vicki could not get away with snatching all his wealth, not after just marrying him. There was a trust out there with Fasano and a will that gave the money to his kids. She could not just come along and take it all to herself. There were millions at stake.

There was a better way. She was named as the trustee of the new will with almost unlimited power to spend for the children [and herself] as she saw fit. The new will also added perks for her and her son.  Vicki’s son got Bill’s collection of trucks and $45,000.

Vicki got the Chevy Tahoe and the Tudor home in Watertown, worth about half a million, as well as the entire contents of the home, plus $350,000 “which” as the will stated, “is in satisfaction of my prenuptial commitments to her, as well as my love for her.”

And the new will ensured Kelly got nothing.

It’s noteworthy that both Kelly Grohs and Karen Riordan were accused of parental alienation.

“It’s the weapon of choice,” Frank told me.

The misuse of parental alienation in Connecticut has been well documented, starting with the book by Keith Harmon Snow, “In the Worst Interest of the Child.”

I noted that one key player in Karen’s case, Jessica Biren Caverly, promotes on her website that she is a member of the Connecticut Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC).

As I noted to Frank, AFCC is known for propagating the misuse of parental alienation, particularly to change custody from the fit protective mother to the abusive father.

While this is primarily targeted to women, I also covered how the same AFCC run scheme was used on former professional baseball player David Segui.

Here is more from my treatise “Making Divorce Pay”

Parental Alienation is also big business for the AFCC. “Overcoming Barriers” is a five-day boot camp for families deemed to have parental alienation. The entire family, including the two divorcing parents, is sent into a camp ground with no cell phones or other electronics to reconnect. Often this boot camp is compulsory, so if a judge orders it and you want to ever see your kids again, participation is mandatory. The cost of this boot camp is $10,000. The boot camp was founded by AFCC member Matthew Sullivan, and its board members include AFCC members Robin Deutsch, Peggie Ward, Marjorie Slabach, Jeffrey Solison, and Barbara Jo Fidler.

The camp was featured in the January 2010 issue of the AFCC newsletter written by Sullivan, Ward and Deutsch.

“As for alienation, again, AFCC does not take a position,” executive director Salem told me, “but if you examine the July 2001 or January 2010 issues of Family Court Review you will learn that many of our members have generally rejected Gardner’s conceptualization of PAS, which is where the controversy began.”

Richard Ducote, a Pittsburgh attorney who cross-examined Gardner shortly before his death, said that by 2002 PAS supporters were arguing that PAS had moved beyond Gardner, thereby making a rejection of him irrelevant to the concept.

Meanwhile, parental alienation has been the topic of numerous AFCC conferences: the 2010 National AFCC conference in New York and a 2011 Massachusetts AFCC conference. A 2011 Conference in Philadelphia held in conjunction with the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) was entitled, “Understanding and Responding to Parental Alienation.” When asked, 98 percent of the 300 respondents at the 2010 national conference replied yes to the question, “Do you think that some children are manipulated by one parent to irrationally and unjustifiably reject the other parent?”

Dr. Silberg, who has attended numerous AFCC conferences, said it’s a matter of priorities: “What I see is that AFCC training is more heavy on alienation and less heavy on spotting abuse.”

It seems like this scheme continues to thrive in Connecticut and beyond.

Frank told me he was hopeful that this story will soon breakthrough the mainstream and this use of family court to traffic children will end.

He drew a parallel to the NXIVM story.

“When I first started reporting on NXIVM, I was reporting that there was a guy in upstate New York who was branding women as slaves, and I wrote about it and I wrote about, like you write about things, and no one picked it up. Some of the mainstream media read it and they said ‘That’s hard to believe. That’s impossible to believe. Someone would have shut them down if he was really doing it.’

“Then, four months later, after I began writing about this on a daily basis, the New York Times picked up the story, quoted me- gave me credit for breaking the story- and a couple weeks later the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York began an investigation, and a few months later the man was in custody. I think that will happen here.”

Post Script

Find the previous two articles on the Connecticut family court system. Part 1 and Part 2.

Check out the Connecticut fundraiser to support more stories like this.