The Château de Valloubière in southwestern France offers sumptuous guest rooms, magnificent food, and fine Languedoc wines from grapes grown on the estate’s verdant grounds. The 25-acre vineyard is located in Saint-Jean-de-Fos, an ancient potters’ village known for its ceramics and one of the oldest surviving Romanesque bridges in the republic.
But for all its charms, the magnificent property also served as a hunting ground for 77-year-old proprietor Gilbert Greaux, a supposedly impotent helicopter-pilot-turned-vintner and new-age healer who was convicted in 2018 of sexually assaulting 17 female guests after performing what he claimed were “collective hypnosis” ceremonies on visitors already plied with copious amounts of the château’s flagship product, followed by an “energy session” or “magnetism massage.”
Once in the treatment room, Greaux told his victims he would help “open up their chakras,” but then assaulted them under the guise of legitimate therapeutic treatment, according to French prosecutors. Many say they were under the spell of Greaux’s “hypnotic hold,” and that they knew something was wrong but “felt hypnotized” or too “heavy” to do anything. One woman described to French investigators being in a “dreamlike state” during Greaux’s assault, and said that although she felt “disgusted” by what he was doing to her, she simply found herself “unable to react.” Another was so shaken by the attack, she quit her nursing job and moved to Corsica to work as a caterer. Multiple victims have been diagnosed with PTSD.
An investigation was launched in 2015, and Greaux was ordered not to leave France. But he managed to slip away and soon reappeared in the United States. He was subsequently convicted in absentia of 14 counts of sexual assault and three counts of rape, receiving a sentence of 13 years in prison. In the meantime, Greaux lived openly in Kissimmee, Florida—until Monday.
Greaux was captured Sept. 25 by St. Lucie County detectives assigned to the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, acting on a notice from Interpol. Other than a brief Facebook announcement about the apprehension from St. Lucie Sheriff Ken Mascara, information about Greaux was limited.
However, a tranche of U.S. extradition papers obtained by The Daily Beast, which include extensive reports from French prosecutors and police, reveal a raft of previously unreported details about Greaux’s past, his devastating crime spree, and his life on the lam selling pseudoscientific cures through magnets and copper bracelets while stonewalling authorities in France for half a decade.
On Thursday, Greaux’s son Nicolas told The Daily Beast that the arrest was “a big shock for [my dad], and for my mom.”
“They knew where we were living, we never hide,” Nicolas insisted, before pointing out his father’s apparent inability to achieve an erection.
“He had colon cancer surgery in 2008 and he can’t have any sex with anyone,” he said. “How can you accuse someone for something you cannot do?”
At the same time, Nicolas, 52, blamed his father’s woes on envious guests, some of whom have also brought civil suits against Greaux.
‘Unable to React’
The probe into Greaux’s serial sex abuse began on Oct. 21, 2013, when a 30-year-old woman (whose name The Daily Beast is withholding) went to a police station in Montpellier and lodged a complaint.
French prosecution documents included in the extradition package says the woman was staying at Château de Valloubière with two friends to celebrate one of their birthdays after spotting a deal on Groupon. The women were welcomed and checked in by Greaux, who invited the trio to dinner that evening in the main house. About a dozen people attended, and the château’s wines flowed freely with the meal. When everyone was finished eating, Greaux treated the guests to a group hypnosis demonstration, followed by dancing in the large dining room.
While this was happening, Greaux “discreetly” invited the woman to continue the hypnosis session, one-on-one, and led her to a small adjacent room with a massage table, she later told investigators.
The woman felt like her “body had dissociated from her mind,” and “she felt in a dreamlike state,” the documents say. That’s when she said Greaux removed her skirt and underwear without consent, and penetrated her with his fingers. Suddenly, the experience turned “brutal and unpleasant,” the woman told investigators. However, the documents say, she was “locked in her own body and unable to react.” When Greaux’s wife knocked on the door, he suddenly froze and the woman got dressed and left the room, according to the documents.
At around midnight, the woman’s friend found her “speechless,” then watched her burst into tears, the documents state. The woman told the friend what had happened, and the friend let her know, in no uncertain terms, that she had been sexually assaulted. The next morning, all three went to the police to lodge a complaint against Greaux.
The documents say that touched off a cascade of inquiries, with police contacting 1,416 people who stayed at Château de Valloubière between the beginning of 2014 and April 2015.
Another guest who booked a stay at the château with her girlfriend told cops that both of them had been assaulted by Greaux, who had boasted to them about his “golden hands,” the document says. On the morning of their departure, Greaux offered the couple a pair of energy sessions, gratis, subsequently assaulting each while telling them he was working to “‘free the aura’ [from] the chakra root located in the pubis,” according to the document.
The women said they were “shocked,” and “horrified,” but weren’t able to do anything to stop it from happening.
Numerous others described near-identical experiences, the vast majority occurring after dinner and a group hypnosis session.
One woman who visited the château with her husband for their 10th wedding anniversary, mentioned to Greaux that she suffered from pain due to endometriosis, according to the document. He offered a free magnetism massage during which he allegedly sexually assaulted her.
A 50-year-old divorcée who booked a 2015 stay with her three adult children accepted Greaux’s offer of a massage followed by a “chakra harmonization session,” the document says. She was receptive to the idea, as she had practiced reiki to get through her divorce, but later told police Greaux put his hand on her genitals and began making “very violent” circular movements. When he told her to lie on her stomach, then put his hand between her thighs, the woman stopped the session and said she was going to tell authorities what had happened.
Later, Greaux’s wife called the woman and asked her to reconsider, telling her that a complaint would destroy their family. The documents say the woman was subsequently found to have post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the assault.
The horror stories go on for pages and pages, describing a seemingly endless string of wrongdoing by Greaux. In court, Greaux’s victims broke down in tears as they spoke of depressive episodes, guilt, shame, and shattered feelings of self-worth. One woman said the assault had reactivated memories of abuse she suffered as a little girl.
Although Greaux told certain victims that he was working on them without touching them, instead using either invisible energy waves or magnets to realign their chakras, the women all said they could feel Greaux’s hands manipulating their genitalia.
On Thursday, Nicolas Greaux told The Daily Beast that magnet therapy is very powerful and can be easily misunderstood.
“With magnetism, you have the sensation of touching when there is not,” he argued. “Many people feel this, that’s the problem with magnetism.”
Greaux’s path to sunny St. Lucie is laid out in the extradition documents, providing a broad outline of the suspect’s movements when law enforcement began closing in.
Greaux, a Lyon native, married his high-school sweetheart, Josette, in 1964 and together they had two children: Patrick, who was born in 1967, and Nicolas, who was born in 1971. The family moved to Toulon in 1974 and stayed until 1990, when they picked up and went to St. Barths—where Greaux’s father was born—for a new start following Patrick’s death in a car crash two years earlier.
But in 2004, Greaux was convicted of sexual assault in Guadeloupe, receiving a two-year suspended sentence and two years of probation. (In that case too, Greaux claimed the whole thing had been a misunderstanding, according to the documents.)
The family returned to France in 2006, with Greaux’s wife explaining that “in such a small community, the attitude of people had changed when he was convicted of sexual assault.” Greaux reportedly took out a million-euro loan to buy the château and Josette asked her husband to stop performing these “magnetism sessions,” to which he agreed, they say.
Lest Greaux try to float a claim of innocence on grounds of insanity, a psychologist’s report French prosecutors submitted with the extradition request deemed Greaux to be ”without any mental defects or psychic abnormality” However, it also says the psychologist found that Greaux’s “sexual identity [was] undeveloped.”
In 2008, Greaux, who already suffered from diabetes, was diagnosed with colon cancer, a consequence of which was impotence, the documents explain.
The string of sexual assaults for which Greaux was convicted began five years later, and lasted through mid-February 2015, according to the documents.
Under interrogation on March 2 of that year, Greaux insisted that he didn’t physically touch one unnamed victim “and maintained that she likely felt heat sensations or fell asleep and had a nightmare during the session,” the documents state, adding that Greaux claimed he had “only put his hands over her chakra points.”
That summer, Nicolas moved to Florida and his parents went with him, the documents say. Greaux had previously asked the court for permission to settle in the U.S., but was denied. He went anyway.
Greaux settled in seamlessly, getting a Florida drivers’ license in his own name while holding French authorities at bay with excuses about his health.
And while French authorities were aware of Greaux’s whereabouts, the documents say the “formalities of extradition” from Florida “remained difficult.” Greaux’s delay tactics helped stymie the process, according to prosecutors in France. In July 2016, Nicolas reportedly sent his dad’s lawyer an email saying his dad had suffered a stroke, and was prohibited from traveling.
The documents in Greaux’s extradition package include a June 2016 letter from a physician in Davenport, Florida, who said he had been treating Greaux for several years and seemed to confirm Nicolas’ claims. Greaux, the doctor wrote, had “recently suffered a T.I.A. (Stroke) and is not medically cleared to travel.” The letter said Greaux also suffered from various comorbidities that “accentuate the effects of the T.I.A. and is currently under intensive medical care.”
In a separate instance provided by French prosecutors, Greaux, who was supposed to have been checking in with French court officials every two weeks but allegedly ghosted them altogether, produced a medical certificate “allegedly justifying his impossibility to appear.” (The extradition documents say Greaux sold the estate in 2015.)
On Dec. 4, 2018, a French judge issued a warrant for Greaux’s arrest. Nearly five years later, he would finally be in handcuffs.
‘Danger to the Community’
Greaux may have been living large in France, but his fortunes appear to have turned after getting to the U.S.
The family has been living in a 2,500 square-foot home near Orlando that listed in May for almost $800,000, but at Greaux’s initial appearance on Tuesday in a Florida federal court, he was determined to be indigent and assigned a public defender to represent him.
After Greaux popped up in Florida, he provided French court officials with a copy of his drivers’ license, complete with his home address, according to the extradition documents. Yet, after trying to get him back voluntarily for so long without success, it appears French authorities eventually grew tired of waiting.
In a court filing dated Sept. 22, federal prosecutors said the French government had submitted a formal extradition request to the U.S. and that the U.S. Marshals Service knew where Greaux was living.
Little more is known about Greaux’s day-to-day life in Florida, other than his online business selling magnets. In 2020, Nicolas and a business partner opened a cafe, Le Boulangerie, in downtown Orlando. In his spare time, Nicolas “enjoys resting and taking it easy,” according to a promotional piece put out by the local Chamber of Commerce, naming the eatery a “Top Gun” small business.
Greaux remains detained as a “serious risk of flight and danger to the community,” and is scheduled to be back in court on Friday for a hearing on whether he will remain locked up pending an Oct. 31 status conference regarding next steps in his extradition.
Greaux will be entitled to a new trial in France, unless he waives this right and accepts the 13-year sentence previously handed down, the extradition documents state.
Nicolas told The Daily Beast on Thursday that his father is “just going to go to France and deal with the judgment. He was judged by default, so we are going to break the judgment and then we will request a new hearing.”
“Before, he was not able to travel because of health conditions and visa renewal issues,” Nicolas said. “We were not able to leave the country, but now he does not have a choice.”
Nicolas went on to brush off sexual assault, complaining, “These days, if you touch the arm of a woman, it can be sexual harassment.”
Before hanging up, he expressed surprise that his dad’s case was of any interest to anyone else, and said he hoped not to get many more calls about it.
“The less we hear about this story until it is resolved,” Nicolas said, “the better it will be.”
Greaux’s public defender, Aisha Nash, did not respond to a request for comment. His lawyer in Montpellier, Denis Bertrand, could not be reached.