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The Curious Case of Joseph and Nicholas Brooks

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In December 2009, Nick left Boulder after just four semesters. This may have been because a few months earlier, his father had been arrested. The indictment, which runs to 127 counts and includes thirteen victims ranging in age from 18 to 30, claims that Joe used Craigslist and casting websites to lure aspiring actresses and singers to New York with the promise of auditions. He allegedly handed them a script in which they played the role of a prostitute, and insisted they get warmed up by drinking as much wine as possible and then disrobing. With some of the women, authorities say, he placed his Oscar in their hands. “This could be you, this could be you holding this Oscar,” he’d say. “If you do what I say.’’

The woman who’d been involved with Joe (but who is not a part of the indictment) said he took a similar approach with her. “He claimed he had a role that was perfect for me. I kept saying, ‘No thank you.’ He kept saying, ‘Do you realize who I am? I’m an Academy Award winner. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for you.’ ” Soon into their relationship, she says, he began threatening her with violence. He would claim he’d done favors for the Mafia and that he could have anyone he wanted killed. “I felt that if I left him, he’d come after me.”

But Nick may have had another reason for leaving Boulder. In early 2010, he and Joe got into a heated argument in which Nick revealed that he, Amanda, and Susan had reconnected. Joe threw him out of the house for a period and cut off Nick’s access to his trust fund. By that point, Joe may have needed whatever money he could get. Last June, he was ordered by a Washington judge to pay one of his victims $2 million in a civil suit. That was shortly after a Broadway investor who’d lent Joe money sued him for $2.4 million; which was after Joe’s bail increased to $1.25 million; which was after he settled his suit against a fiancée, who he claimed never told him she was already married; which was after he borrowed $500,000 from that same woman to raise bail (after giving her a gift of $1 million).

The Upper East Side apartment where Joe lived has been the center of a less official expenditure. According to Kristin Davis—the so-called Manhattan Madam who last year ran for governor—Joe ordered escorts from her on over 100 occasions between 2005 and 2008. He sometimes ordered two in a single night, at a cost of $1,000 to $1,200 per call. He started out as a good client, but after he repeatedly rejected women because he thought they looked too old, or refused to pay them, Davis blacklisted him. She says: “If I could have sent him a girl under 18, he would have been thrilled.” Davis says Joe would hand some of the escorts a film script he’d written and tell them to read the part of his lover. They were to tell him how handsome he was, how much they loved him. He promised them parts in his next film. And if he particularly liked them, he allowed them to hold his Oscar.

One night early last summer, a friend of Nick’s called him in an effort to persuade him to go out. By that point Nick and Joe had begun talking again, and Joe had apparently restored Nick’s access to his trust fund. Nick had moved into an apartment on Second Avenue in the East Village. He had recently broken up with a girlfriend and didn’t feel like carousing. But he finally agreed. That night he met Sylvie Cachay.

Raised in Virginia by a doctor and artist who’d emigrated from Peru, Sylvie knew what she wanted to do from a young age. She’d attended Parsons design programs as a teenager, and after graduating from college had moved to New York to work for Tommy Hilfiger. She’d been hired by Victoria’s Secret to revamp its swimwear line, then in 2006 had launched her own line, Syla, from her loft on Lispenard Street. “It was a perfect storm of insane talent, bringing something new, and a sparkling, magnetic personality,” says Lesa Wright McHale, Sylvie’s former publicist and friend. Though she drove her staff hard and could be dramatic, McHale says, Sylvie was always funny and self-deprecating. “She never took her beauty too seriously.”

Before Nick, Sylvie had never been known to date younger men and had been partial to the ambitious—or at least the steadily employed. In 2003, she married her college boyfriend, who works in finance. They divorced three years later but remained close. After her divorce, she dated and become engaged to a photographer. They didn’t marry but also remained close.


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