This post initially appeared on VICE Canada.
A lady implicated of recruiting her finest pal into a secret woman-branding “slave” group has pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering, and one count of racketeering conspiracy.
Lauren Salzman is a high-ranking member of NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um), a self-help group whose leader Keith Raniere is dealing with trial for child exploitation, sex trafficking, forced labor, racketeering, and other criminal activities.
Salzman is the 2nd individual to be convicted in the prominent “sex cult” case, which has also charged Smallville actress Allison Mack with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and required labor. Lauren Salzman’s mom Nancy Salzman, the president and co-founder of NXIVM, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy earlier this month.
NXIVM started in 1998 offering expensive “executive success” workshops in upstate Brand-new York, drawing cult allegations as early as 2003. The courses prod individuals’ insecurities and claim to break down “self-limiting beliefs” that keep people from accomplishing their dreams.
Over two decades the multi-level marketing company broadened to numerous global destinations including Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, London, Miami, and Mexico City. Along the method its members launched lots of offshoot courses and recruitment efforts incorporating yoga, physical fitness, parenting, acting, singing, advocacy, and media criticism. Recruitment was rewarded with special status in the organization, significant with colored sashes.
In 2017, previous NXIVM expert Sarah Edmondson told VICE about a secretive spin-off called DOS that supposed to be about empowering females. Eastern District of New York district attorneys allege this secret group branded women and utilized blackmail to ensure their participation as “slaves” for the “master” who recruited them.
Women who were initiated into the group were needed to stick to severe low-calorie diets and participate in “readiness” drills that cut off their sleep. “Masters” in the group presumably tested women’s commitment through tasks that might consist of having sex with Keith Raniere. If females did not total the assignments, they believed harmful information or photos of their naked bodies would be released.
Court files declare Lauren Salzman was a “first-line master” in the secret females’s group, and was herself a “slave” to Raniere. She and Mack both pledged a lifelong “vow of obedience” to the declared cult leader, according to a former member.
Lauren Salzman is the very first member of the secret “slave” group to plead guilty, but the exact criminal acts she’s confessed to were sealed Monday. A racketeering conviction needs the accused take part in at least two indictable acts as part of a criminal business, which in Salzman’s case could be extortion or required labor and/or something called “document thrall.” She will be sentenced in September.
US prosecutors announced in court earlier this month that they’re in plea negotiations with other offenders, which might discuss why Salzman’s plea was sealed. In a letter to the judge Thursday lead prosecutor Moira Kim Penza verified Salzman’s plea and asked that a edited variation of it be made offered to the public.
“The federal government respectfully sends that the proposed limited redactions are necessary,” Penza wrote.
So far Salzman’s plea hasn’t captured the headlines that heiress Clare Bronfman made by fainting in court Wednesday. Bronfman is likewise charged with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy related to her declared involvement in money laundering, wire fraud, visa fraud, and identity theft.
The heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune has retained an pricey legal team and set up a trust to pay for some of the other offenders’ legal costs. On Wednesday afternoon Bronfman was asked if she had kept famed Rainy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti—who’s presently facing his own extortion charges—to represent Bronfman in the NXIVM case.
The judge questioned why Avenatti and Bronfman’s main attorney Mark Geragos satisfied with a federal prosecutor to negotiate on the NXIVM file. He also cast doubt on Bronfman’s account that she found Geragos by web search, as there happens to be a family connection in between Raniere and Bronfman’s legal groups.
Faced with tough questions about her legal representation, Bronfman passed out in court, and an ambulance was called.
“As your honor is conscious, Ms. Bronfman is not feeling well,” one of Bronfman’s lawyers informed the judge after the episode. “She is going to the healthcare facility… I think she blacked out.”
The judge proceeded to scold Bronfman’s legal representatives for deflecting his concerns. “I desire responses. I want to know why I wasn’t informed last week that Mr. Avenatti had been retained,” he said. “I desire to understand that since I must have been informed who the legal representatives are.”
New Yorker TELEVISION critic Emily Nussbaum immediately called for this complicated news-cycle crossover to end. “Please cancel this reveal, it is no longer coherent even to fans,” she tweeted.
In a Thursday letter to the judge, one of Bronfman’s legal representatives validated Avenatti did work for her “for a matter of days” and “for a restricted purpose.”
The courtroom drama was one of the more unexpected advancements in the case considering that Raniere was detained in Mexico one year ago this week. The case has certainly not been short on shocking discoveries, with new kid pornography and kid exploitation charges against Raniere included for the first time 2 weeks back.
With a month left before the April 29 trial is slated to start, we may see a few more surprises yet.
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An earlier version of this story misstated that Teny Geragos is Clare Bronfman’s primary attorney.