NXIVM 'sex lair' in Halfmoon targeted in FBI raid

Authorities say woman was a victim of sex trafficking at the home

Albany Times-Union/April 6, 2018

By Brendan J. Lyons

A Halfmoon townhouse raided by the FBI last week was dubbed "The Library" by NXIVM leader Keith Raniere, who had allegedly used the residence for years as his private sex lair, according to court records and interviews with people familiar with the residence.

The nondescript townhouse on Hale Drive, in the Knox Woods residential development, is a short walk from the small residence where Raniere lived for more than 15 years before he abruptly flew to Mexico last fall — after he became the target of an intensive federal criminal investigation.

The Hale Drive residence, which has a hot tub and a large bed on the second floor, was searched by the FBI around the same time the nearby residence of NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman was raided on March 27. Property records indicate the Hale Drive residence has been owned since 2004 by a now-inactive corporation, Executive Housing & Properties, which lists Salzman as its chief executive officer. The corporation's address, 455 New Karner Road in Albany, is also the location of NXIVM's headquarters.

The FBI's searches took place two days after Raniere, the leader of NXIVM, was arrested by Mexican federal police at a $10,000-a-week villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Raniere was with some of his most devoted female followers when he was taken into custody. Federal agents later brought Raniere to a federal courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas, where he appeared on a criminal complaint charging him with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor.

Raniere is being held at a federal prison in Oklahoma City without bond and is scheduled to be brought to the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, where his case is pending. There is no timetable for his return.

In the federal criminal complaint filed against Raniere, prosecutors said the residence known as the Library is where Raniere, 57, repeatedly had sex with an unidentified actress in her 30s. Raniere is accused of illegally coercing the woman into becoming part of a secretive slave-master sex club associated with NXIVM.

The federal criminal complaint alleges that Raniere formed the group in which numerous women said they were lured into joining the club by other female members of NXIVM. They were required to provide some sort of collateral — such as nude photographs or damning information about their pasts — that leaders of the club threatened would be released if they failed to follow instructions or tried to leave the group, authorities said.

Some of the women have said they were also pressured to have sex with Raniere, while others told federal authorities that a female doctor associated with NXIVM, Danielle Roberts, used a cauterizing iron to brand them with a design on their lower abdomen that contained the initials of Raniere and Allison Mack, an actress and NXIVM associate who is listed in the complaint as an unnamed co-conspirator.

The Hale Drive townhouse is where federal authorities say the unidentified actress, who is listed as "Jane Doe 1" in the criminal complaint, became a victim of sex trafficking and forced labor. The actress lived in Brooklyn during the time she was an allegedly a victim of Raniere's — which is part of the reason the case is being pursued by the U.S. Attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York, which includes the borough.

The complaint alleges Mack, who is identified only as "Co-Conspirator 1," recruited the actress to join the secret club in February 2016, including making her provide "collateral" that consisted of "letters detailing false and highly damning accusations against her family members."

According to an FBI affidavit, the actress was required to provide more collateral, including turning over her credit card numbers to Mack. The actress also was ordered by Mack to travel to Halfmoon every week, and remain celibate for six months.

During one of her trips to Halfmoon, the actress said Mack instructed her to meet Raniere in the middle of the night near his residence. He allegedly instructed the actress to remove her clothing, placed a blindfold over her eyes and drove her around. Once he stopped the vehicle, they walked through some woods to a shack where the actress said she was tied to a table and forced to engage in sex with an unidentified person who was in the room with Raniere.

In the months that followed, according to an FBI affidavit, Raniere had repeated sexual contact with the actress at the Hale Drive townhouse.

Some experts have described NXIVM as a cult, and the criminal prosecution of Raniere has forced the secretive man who calls himself "Vanguard" under the spotlight of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.

Federal authorities said Raniere in recent years has maintained a "rotating group of 15 to 20 women with whom he maintains sexual relationships."

"These women are not permitted to have sexual relationships with anyone but Raniere or to discuss with others their relationships with Raniere," according to the criminal complaint.

Still, the FBI's raid of Salzman's residence may signal that the investigation is broader than the sex trafficking charges.

A former NXIVM associate, Kristen M. Keeffe, who defected from the organization several years ago, alleged in 2015 that large amounts of cash used to be stored in a safe at Salzman's residence, and that money collected from people who took NXIVM training sessions in Mexico was funneled across the border into the United States. Keeffe, in a court filing, claimed that Salzman, among others, would allegedly "bring the cash over the border."

The money, which was allegedly funneled through the bank account of a Mexican associate, was "logged on the system as a scholarship, and cash was kept in Nancy's house," Keeffe said in a conversation attributed to her that was filed in Albany County Court.

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