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Flathead extortion case: Sex, drugs and $15 million

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A California man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to stalking and extorting a wealthy Whitefish businessman who was once forced out of a California company and is associated with charitable organizations in northwest Montana.

The alleged victim is referred to in U.S. District of Montana court documents as "Businessman 1," a "wealthy investor" from Whitefish.

A parallel California case, involving similar salacious allegations and a $15 million extortion attempt, identifies Whitefish philanthropist Michael Goguen as the alleged victim.

Bryan Gregg Waterfield Nash appeared Tuesday in the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in Missoula via video link from a courtroom in San Francisco to enter his pleas to the charges of stalking and interstate communications with intent to extort. While the complaint focuses on the extortion effort against "Businessman 1," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in an email Tuesday that 33 people in total were harassed or intimidated.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Tim Racicot on Tuesday declined to confirm the identity of "Businessman 1." When reached by phone Tuesday, an employee at Two Bear Air, the search and rescue operation funded by Goguen, said "We can't comment on that." Attempts to reach Nash for comment were not returned.

The federal complaint filed in June alleges that in 2013 Nash asked "Businessman 1" for $250,000 to pay for legal fees associated with Nash's divorce, for which he blamed the businessman. Before long, Nash was seeking $15 million from the entrepreneur by way of threatening messages toward him, his former and current business partners, family and friends. 

"Finally met your grim reaper and he waits at your door," Nash wrote, according to the federal complaint.

Nash's scheme threatened to expose "Businessman 1" on allegations of drugging and raping prostitutes outside of his marriage. Indeed, an FBI agent wrote in the complaint, "Businessman 1" had admitted to having "consensual adult relationships with many women, sometimes outside of his marriages." 

As noted in the complaint, "Businessman 1" was forced to leave "Company A" in March 2016 after being named in a civil lawsuit.

That very month, Sequoia Capital, the California venture capital firm where Goguen was a managing partner, announced Goguen had left the company shortly after he was named defendant of a civil lawsuit filed against him by Amber Babtiste, a woman who claimed he sexually assaulted her for years and failed to pay the $40 million they had agreed upon to cut their ties without issue. Goguen responded to the assault claims by calling them a "vile collection of lies," and he counter-sued Baptiste for breach of their contract.

Court records from the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Mateo show that Baptiste's case is still active, and that Nash has become party to the lawsuit in support of Baptiste. In an August 2017, filing, Goguen's attorneys compelled Google to turn over records identifying email accounts, such as bryan.nash@gmail.com and nash.bryan@gmail.com Goguen's attorneys say those accounts have sent threatening emails to their client. His attorneys also mention a $15 million extortion attempt by Nash in the filing. 

Shortly after Goguen left Sequoia, federal prosecutors allege Nash began emailing partners and other employees at "Company A" seeking a job at the firm.

"He suggested Company A pay him $10 million in legal fees so he could continue to keep Company A's name out of it," an FBI special agent wrote in the complaint. 

Nash sent more than 100 emails and text messages to the company's partners, employees and attorneys, according to the complaint.

"Businessman 1" reported the harassment to local and federal law enforcement three years earlier in 2013. Eventually, at the instruction of law enforcement, "Businessman 1" made an agreement to pay Nash $15 million to end his harassment, according to the federal complaint. 

By that time, Nash had sent one text message to the entrepreneur and his girlfriend expressing he knew their whereabouts, and once texted the businessman's girlfriend indicating he was inside her apartment building, according to the federal complaint.

In November 2016, Nash filed a lawsuit seeking to enforce the $15 million agreement put together by "Businessman 1" and law enforcement. That same month, Nash sued Goguen in U.S. District Court in California to enforce a $15 million agreement. Nash dropped the lawsuit months later, however, "after learning Businessman 1 had made the agreement at the direction of local law enforcement as part of an investigation of Nash," according to the complaint. 

Despite apparently learning of the investigation against him, prosecutors say Nash's alleged harassment continued and extended to Businessman 1's wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, friends and other associates, "accusing Businessman 1 of soliciting prostitutes, rape and various other criminal and salacious activity." He called "Businessman 1's" church in Montana to say exposing "Businessman 1" would harm the church's reputation. That threat also extended to a Montana "charitable organization with which Businessman 1 was affiliated."  

In spring 2019, Nash became aware of the FBI's investigative subpoenas for the two emails, nash.bryan@gmail.com and bryan.nash@gmail.com, and began adding a caveat to his ongoing messages to Businessman 1's associates, contending he had never asked for money. 

Still, the complaint against Nash contains one text message sent to "Businessman 1's" associate as late as June 8 of this year. 

"Even with all of his (Businessman 1's) resources, he has no idea what's coming his way," Nash reportedly wrote the associate. "We know the truth about you. … Get smart and I will use my leverage and resources to help you."

Those who reported being caught up in the alleged extortion scheme described it to law enforcement as "all consuming," and "something they worry about every day." "Businessman 1" and another associate have since increased the security around their homes and workplaces, according to federal prosecutors.

The FBI, as a cautionary measure, interviewed two women Nash alleged had been harmed by "Businessman 1." One woman who Nash said the businessman killed was indeed dead, but the FBI found no connection between her and the businessman, according to the complaint. The other woman said "Businessman 1" had not drugged and raped her as Nash alleged, but did say she had been contacted by Nash about the allegations. 

At his initial appearance and arraignment on Tuesday, Nash accepted the representation of federal public defender John Rhodes. Asked by U.S. Magistrate Kathleen DeSoto if he had any mental or physical health issues, he said he has anxiety, but was otherwise OK to proceed with the case. 

If convicted, Nash could be sentenced to five years in federal prison for the stalking charge and two years on the extortion charge. 

His next hearing was set for Aug. 21 before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy.

This article originally ran on missoulian.com.

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