California Man Pleads Guilty to Blackmailing Whitefish Philanthropist

Bryan Nash is the subject of a federal indictment alleging a years-long campaign of extortion and blackmail against Michael Goguen

By Tristan Scott
Michael Goguen pictured in 2018. Beacon File Photo

A California man pleaded guilty to a single count of blackmail in U.S. District Court in Missoula on May 7, four days before he was set to stand trial on a host of additional criminal charges alleging a years-long extortion and harassment campaign targeting wealthy Whitefish philanthropist Michael Goguen and his family.

The defendant, Bryan Gregg Waterfield Nash, entered his plea as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, who will in turn dismiss multiple charges of interstate stalking and interstate communication with the intent to extort, while recommending a five-year probationary sentence. Nash remains released on supervision pending a sentencing hearing set for Aug. 7.

A federal criminal complaint filed last June contains information gathered by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who detailed Nash’s attempts to extort millions of dollars from Goguen (identified only as “Businessman 1” in court documents) beginning in 2013. At that time, Nash demanded that Goguen pay him $250,000 to cover legal fees related to Nash’s divorce proceedings.

Goguen rebuffed the demand, and documents allege Nash began a “steadily escalating” campaign to extort and blackmail Goguen and “destroy him personally.”

The initial charging documents describe a “friendly relationship” between Nash and Goguen in the years prior to 2008, when Goguen worked as a venture capitalist for Sequoia Capital, a prominent California firm. However, the relationship soured after Nash’s wife initiated divorce proceedings, with Nash blaming Goguen for the dissolution.

Goguen reported Nash’s financial demands to federal law enforcement, as well as officials in California, explaining that he believed he’d become the target of criminal extortion. Over the next two years, Nash sent Goguen numerous emails threatening retaliation, including through exposure of Goguen’s extramarital affairs “and other salacious activity,” records state.

In 2016, at the behest of California law enforcement officials investigating Nash, Goguen sent him messages agreeing to pay $15 million to end the harassment, records state.

Charges were never filed as a result of the California investigation; instead, Nash continued to send Goguen text messages suggesting he would release damaging information regarding Goguen to the public, and threatening him with criminal prosecution for a variety of alleged misdeeds.

That same year, Goguen was named in a civil lawsuit filed in California by his former mistress, Amber Laurel Baptiste, who made explosive claims that the billionaire sexually and physically abused her, all of which a judge later determined had been made falsely as part of an extortion plot.

Baptiste’s claims appeared to fuel Nash’s extortion attempts, which intensified and extended to numerous other friends, family members and business associates in Goguen’s orbit.

“Throughout 2016 and 201 7, Nash repeatedly sent Facebook messages, text messages, and e-mails to Businessman 1 and Businessman l’s wives, ex-wives, girlfriends, friends, and other associates accusing Businessman 1 of soliciting prostitutes, rape and various other criminal and salacious activity,” according to federal investigators. “He repeatedly threatened to ‘expose’ this alleged conduct publicly.”

Although federal investigators have debunked Nash’s claims, he continued to send Goguen and his current wife harassing messages, according to investigators, despite their repeated requests for him to stop, eventually threatening legal action.

“Despite this and similar requests by others to stop, in 2018 Nash continued to send more emails and text messages to Businessman 1’s wife and Businessman 1 and his attorneys and associates threatening to make Businessman 1’s alleged criminal and salacious activity public by either filing a lawsuit or going to the press,” records state.

At one point, Nash contacted Goguen’s church in Whitefish by telephone and email, according to investigators, “making his usual salacious allegations, and advising the exposure of Businessman l’s alleged misbehavior would likely harm the church. He then taunted Businessman l’s wife via text message on June 28, 2018, informing her he had contacted her pastor with his allegations.”

Nash also sent dozens of messages to Goguen’s daughter, sister and close friends claiming he committed crimes, fathered children with prostitutes, and engaged in other salacious and illegal activity, according to investigators.

In October 2018, Nash also sent emails making similar allegations to local and state law enforcement officials.

“After a month of steadily escalating emails accusing Businessman 1 of criminal behavior and threatening to destroy him personally, on October 29, 2018, Nash sent an email to Businessman 1’s attorney asking, ‘What are his terms to settle?’” according to investigators.

Nash’s harassing texts, emails, and other communications to Goguen and his family and associates continued throughout the rest of 2018 and into 2019, records state, and extended to Goguen’s former partners at Sequoia Capital, to whom Nash sent hundreds of messages and emails.

“Nash’s pattern of interstate communications containing threats, harassment and extortionate demands have had a profound impact on the lives of those who have received them,” records state, adding that Goguen and his former partners increased security outside their homes and workplaces and fear for the safety of their families.

“They, along with family, friends, and associates describe Nash’s barrage of messages as ‘all consuming,’ and something they worry about every day,” records state. “Nash’s degrading emails to friends, family members, pastors, charity organizations, and law enforcement, coupled with his repeated threats to spread accusations against them to the larger public have been agonizing.”

One recipient of Nash’s messages reported having nightmares and losing significant sleep, while another was forced to go on anxiety medication, according to records. Others have told the FBI they live in constant fear that, even though false, Nash’s allegations against them would cause the loss of their reputations, businesses, and even families.

“The FBI has interviewed at least 20 individuals in four different states who have received harassing interstate communications from Nash, and nearly all have described a significant interruption in their lives and changes in behavior and enjoyment as a result of Nash’s pattern of harassment,” records state.

Goguen is currently embroiled in a separate lawsuit filed by Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial alleging Goguen attempted to influence a criminal investigation. Dial also alleges that Goguen retaliated against him and sought to end the chief’s employment.

However, in documents sent to Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training (POST), which oversees law enforcement training and certification in the state, Goguen accuses Dial of inappropriate behavior. The POST documents, which an attorney for Goguen provided to the Beacon, include email communications between Dial and Nash, and also make repeated references to Baptiste, the woman behind the 2016 civil suit who a judge later determined was part of an extortion plot. The documents describe Baptiste and Nash as co-conspirators in spreading false rumors to prompt Dial’s department to criminally investigate Goguen.

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