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Nxivm Co-Founder Pleads Guilty, As Alleged Sex Cult's Leader Is Hit With Child Pornography Charges

Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering on Wednesday.
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Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering on Wednesday. Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

Nancy Salzman, a registered nurse who helped found Nxivm—the purported "self-help group" in Albany that has been widely described as a sex cult—pleaded guilty to racketeering on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors hit her alleged partner-in-crime, Nxivm leader Keith Raniere, with another round of damning charges: Raniere has been accused of taking photos of two underage girls, and of having sexual relationships with both. According to BuzzFeed News, one of these girls was just 15 years old when Salzman "hired" her, and went on to become a "first-line [sex] 'slave'" to Raniere one decade later.

Salzman pleaded guilty to one charge of racketeering conspiracy, admitting in Brooklyn federal court that she pilfered login details to hack Nxivm members' email accounts, when she suspected those members of informing on the organization. She also said she ordered the destruction of certain, apparently incriminating, video tapes featuring Raniere and outlining his methods.

"I want you to know I am pleading guilty because I am, in fact, guilty. I accept that some of the things I did were not just wrong, but sometimes criminal," Salzman said in court, according to the NY Post. "I justified them by saying that what we were doing was for the greater good. I am deeply sorry for the trouble I caused my daughter, [and] the pain I caused my parents."

"I still believe that some of what we did was good," Salzman reportedly added. Her daughter Lauren Salzman, it's worth mentioning, has also been charged in the larger case against Nxivm, which involves multi-faceted fraud and human trafficking.

Although Nancy Salzman helped create the group in the 1990s, and although she functioned as a self-appointed "Prefect" directing its activities, she has faced no charges relating to sex trafficking. (Her daughter, however, does.) Raniere, on the other hand: Even before prosecutors added child pornography charges to his docket, he had already been indicted for his alleged plot to induct women into a pyramid scheme disguised as a professional self-improvement program. In addition to pocketing thousands of dollars from these women, prosecutors say Raniere brought some members into a secret sorority called DOS, branding their pelvises with a symbol intentionally arranged to include his initials. ("if it were abraham lincolns or bill gates initials no one would care [sic throughout]," Raniere reportedly remarked in a text.)

Raniere has denied that Nxivm was a cult; experts have characterized Nxivm as exceptionally cult-y.

DOS recruits, dubbed "slaves," allegedly wound up in sexual servitude to Raniere, their communications, diets, and daily lives micromanaged by Nxivm "masters"—including Smallville's Allison Mack, who has also been charged—seemingly so that no details about the group's inner workings leaked to concerned family members. In one case, Raniere and Lauren Salzman allegedly held a "slave" in a room for two years, threatening to drop her off in Mexico without documents if she left. (She did, and they did, allegedly of course.) Raniere, known as "Vanguard" within the group, has also been accused of using a dead woman's credit card to smuggle someone into the country.

Given all that, Raniere faces forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, and sex trafficking conspiracy charges. And now, he also faces child pornography charges, pursuant the two alleged sexual relationships he had with minors, which—according to BuzzFeed—other Nxivm leaders not only knew about, but helped arrange in the first place.

Nancy Salzman will be sentenced on July 10th. Raniere's trial is slated to begin in April.

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