A second ringleader of Nxivm, the alleged upstate cult and sex trafficking ring, pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal court last week, and newly unsealed court papers add another dark dimension to the ongoing revelations about the cult. As part of her guilty plea, Lauren Salzman, daughter to Nxivm co-founder Nancy Salzman, reportedly admitted to holding a woman against her will for years, under threat of deportation.
"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" from March 2010 to April 2012, Salzman told judge Nicholas Garaufis, according to court papers obtained by the NY Post. She reportedly added that she warned her captive that non-compliance with the group's labor demands would mean a return to Mexico. She also admitted to being a member of Nxivm's secret society, DOS, the subset of the purported "self-help" group that branded women and inducted them into sexual servitude.
The court closed Salzman's hearing to the public and immediately sealed the transcript immediately until it could be redacted. According to the Times Union, the secrecy surrounding Salzman's plea may indicate that she will cooperate with the larger case against alleged cult leader Keith Raniere.
Salzman pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Her mother, Nancy, pleaded guilty to racketeering in mid-March, at the same time prosecutors charged Raniere with child pornography for his alleged relationships with minors. That's on top of the forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking, and sex trafficking conspiracy charges.
So far, Raniere maintains his innocence—his lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, has gone to great lengths to paint Nxivm as a "wonderful humanitarian organization"—but his right-hand, Smallville's Allison Mack, has reportedly been engaged in plea negotiations as well. The same (allegedly) goes for Nxivm accountant Kathy Russell.
Of the ringleaders implicated in the federal government's case, then, just Raniere and Clare Bronfman—the Seagrams heiress accused not only of bankrolling the group, but also of money laundering and committing identity theft on its behalf—plan to fight the charges against them. In a dramatic twist last week, Bronfman fainted in court after Judge Garaufis brought up the possibility that she'd quietly tried to retain embattled lawyer Michael Avenatti, who faces his own legal battle for allegedly trying to extort Nike. Anyway, it's possible that, should Mack and Russell also accept pleas, they'll all show up as witnesses for the prosecution when Bronfman and Raniere stand trial.