Daughter of NXIVM leader pleads guilty

Lauren Salzman admits guilt to two felony charges

Albany Times-Union/March 29, 2019

By Brendan J. Lyons and Mike Goodwin

Lauren Salzman, the daughter of NXIVM President Nancy Salzman, pleaded guilty to two felony charges in connection with the Justice Department's criminal prosecution of the Colonie-based organization's leaders.

Salzman, 42, who owns a residence in Halfmoon, pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy during an unannounced court appearance Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis, according to court documents.

The transcript of her plea hearing was sealed and no one from the public attended, although it took place in open court. The government late Thursday asked the judge to release a transcript of the proceeding, but to keep a portion of it under seal. Their reasons for making that request were filed under seal, indicating Salzman may have agreed to cooperate in the investigation when she pleaded guilty.

Salzman is the second person to plead guilty in the case. Her mother, Nancy, pleaded guilty to two racketeering counts on March 13. Nancy Salzman's guilty plea took place in open court during a proceeding that had been publicly noticed a day earlier. At Nancy Salzman's plea hearing, there was no mention of whether she has agreed to cooperate, although she still could be called as a trial witness.

Lauren Salzman and her mother were indicted last year along with NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere; television actress Allison Mack; Clare Bronfman, the organization's operations director and an heiress of the Seagram's liquor empire; and Kathy Russell, a longtime bookkeeper for NXIVM.

Prosecutors have said they are engaged in plea negotiations with two other defendants, but did not identify them.

Raniere and Mack were arrested a year ago. Four months later, in July, federal agents in Albany arrested both Salzmans and Russell. Bronfman was taken into custody that same day by federal agents in New York City.

Nancy Salzman, 64, when she pleaded guilty earlier this month, was the first to break of the defendants to break her allegiance to Raniere, who was her close confidant and NXIVM's spiritual leader.

Salzman's sudden admission signaled the unraveling of a close-knit and ultra-secretive organization that Raniere had built over the last 20 years, amassing thousands of followers in "executive success" training programs that prosecutors have cast as no more than a "cult-like" pyramid scheme, according to court filings.

On the day Nancy Salzman pleaded guilty, the government also unsealed a superseding indictment against Raniere and his remaining co-defendants that added seven charges, including some leveled at Raniere for his alleged sexual exploitation of an underage girl. Those charges elevated the severity of the case for Raniere, who would face a minimum 15 years in prison if convicted on those counts.

Opening statements in the criminal trial are scheduled to take place April 29 in Brooklyn. It's unclear if the plea negotiations and additional charges filed against Raniere will delay that date.

Raniere has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in custody at a federal detention facility in Brooklyn without bond. The other defendants have all been released on conditions that include home confinement.

The new indictment honed the government's case and includes charges of extortion, sex trafficking, harboring of aliens for financial gain, forced labor, various conspiracy charges and wire fraud.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of a Halfmoon townhouse that Raniere called "The Library" and allegedly used as his private "sex lair," as well as more than $520,000 in cash that was seized last year from Nancy Salzman's Halfmoon residence.

The charges allege some of the defendants took part in recruiting and grooming sexual partners for Raniere, and of using "harassment, coercion and abusive litigation to intimidate and attack perceived enemies and critics of Raniere."

Raniere's attorneys have criticized the government's case as overreaching and are asking a judge to throw out evidence obtained when computers and other electronic devices were seized from Salzman's residence and other properties used by the group.

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