A mother-daughter duo were involved in some of the more sinister aspects of NXIVM, a celebrity-filled self help group which was rotten at its core.
The multi-level marketing company was thrust into the spotlight after several former members blew the whistle on the group’s illegal activity. A shocking 2017 New York Times expose revealed that there was an inner cult within the pyramid scheme-like company, where women became sex slaves of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere.
The whistleblowing, a process chronicled in HBO’s new docuseries “The Vow,” led to the arrest of Raniere in 2018 and his subsequent 2019 conviction for racketeering, sex trafficking, and other charges. Five other high-ranking NXIVM members were also arrested, including Nancy Salzman and her daughter Lauren Salzman.
Nancy, a former nurse and trained hypnotist, had co-founded the group alongside Raniere in 1998 — a group they claimed was guided by humanitarian principles. Together they offered expensive self-help programs and seminars to students who, in true pyramid fashion, were often told to recruit even more students. "The Vow" incorporates footage of Nancy starring in NXIVM self-help videos and teaching classes.
Students were expected to call Nancy "Prefect," which typically stands for a chief officer. She was also a leader for an exclusive womens-only inner group called Jness, according to a snapshot of a former website for the subgroup stated. Several members of Jness were also in a secret women-only inner group called DOS where women were branded and were forced to fork over collateral, like naked photos or other material that could be used to potentially shame them, in order to serve Raniere and other high-ranking slaves-turned-masters in the pyramid scheme.
Salzman pleaded guilty last year to a racketeering charge for stealing identities of the group's critics and hacking into their email accounts from 2003 to 2008. She also admitted to attempting to alter footage and records due to a lawsuit against the organization.
She testified in federal court that she co-created NXIVM because she wanted to help people. However, she admitted that she lost her moral compass when she went after those trying to shine a light on the group’s inner-workings.
"I accept that some of what I did was not just wrong, but criminal,” she said in court. “If I could go back and do it all over again, I would. But I can't."
Her daughter Lauren was a junior NXIVM leader who, along with other members, began recruiting celebrities to join the group in 2006. Lauren, like her mother, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. She was also a slave master in DOS. She even admitted to keeping a sex slave locked in a room from March 2010 to April 2012. During that time, she would threaten the woman with deportation if she did not oblige.
“I knowingly and intentionally harbored Jane Doe 4, a woman whose identity is known to me, in a room in the home in the Northern District of New York,” she said in court last week, according to unsealed court transcripts quoted by the New York Post.
Lauren was with Raniere during his 2018 arrest in Mexico. He had fled the country after the damning 2017 New York Times report about him. She testified that she tried to help him escape, Rolling Stone reported last year. Lauren had been in a secret sexual relationship with Raniere since 2001, according to Rolling Stone. She referred to him as her master.
The Salzmans’ sentencing hearings have been pushed back to coronavirus. It’s unclear when they will be sentenced. Nancy was released on a $5 million dollar bond in 2018, the Democrat & Chronicle reported last year. She is currently staying with another daughter in Waterford, another upstate New York town not far from NXIVM headquarters, Oprah Magazine reported earlier this year. Lauren, who faces up to 20 years behind bars, was placed under house arrest by a federal judge in Brooklyn last year, the New York Post reported.
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