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Nxivm’s Scientology-like targeting of critics outlined as Nancy Salzman pleads guilty

[Nancy Salzman leaves court today. Photo by VillageDianne]

NEW: The new superseding indictment hit the court file the same day Nancy Salzman pled guilty, and we have it here.

Some additional very interesting documents have been unsealed in the Nxivm case even as one of its chief defendants, Nancy Salzman, pled guilty today in a Brooklyn court to a count of racketeering.

First, let’s take a look at what the press is saying about Salzman’s appearance in court today…

Albany Times-Union: Salzman, who appeared in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, faces 33 to 41 months in prison as a result of the conviction, and a maximum fine of $250,000 plus possible restitution and forfeiture. Her plea did not include a cooperation agreement with the Justice Department, which last year brought charges against Salzman as well as her daughter Lauren; 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. In the courtroom, Salzman broke down as she apologized to her daughter and her parents. “It has taken me some time and some soul-searching to come to this place,” she said. ” … I still believe some of what we did was good.” Salzman admitted to two criminal acts: hacking into email accounts of the group’s enemies — who were not named in court — and altering a videotape of NXIVM instructional sessions during a federal civil suit that pitted the group against the Ross Institute, which works to alert the public to the dangers of cults.

New York Post: “I want you to know I am pleading guilty because I am, in fact, guilty,” she said in Brooklyn federal court, her voice breaking. “I accept that some of the things I did were not just wrong, but sometimes criminal. “I justified them by saying that what we were doing was for the greater good,” she told Judge Nicholas Garaufis. “I am deeply sorry for the trouble I caused my daughter, [and] the pain I caused my parents… Her lawyer Robert Soloway told The Post Tuesday that his client would not be cooperating against her fellow Nxians. In her tearful statement, Salzman said she’d obtained passwords and user names to monitor suspected moles within the organization and see if they were revealing the group’s secrets. She also confessed to “having others destroy video tapes” memorializing Raniere’s teachings.

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Vice: Salzman’s plea suggests we’ll find out a whole lot more about NXIVM at trial, as she played a central role in the organization from the beginning. Over her 20 years with NXIVM, Salzman became a highly-revered figure who wore a special white sash, had her own VIP parking spot at the company’s main headquarters in Albany, New York, and was held up as an extraordinary teacher that her students called “Prefect”…Prosecutors’ latest filings reveal the government plans to present evidence of Raniere’s sexual relationships with underage girls. A memo unsealed Tuesday alleges members of Keith’s inner circle “were aware of and facilitated Raniere’s sexual relationships with two underage victims.” One 15-year-old alleged victim worked for Nancy Salzman and went on to become a “first-line ‘slave’ in DOS,” according to the court files. Trial evidence will also include “dated images” of a child victim taken and owned by Raniere, which prosecutors called “child pornography.”

 
But at the same time that was happening, more documents have been unsealed as the government and lawyers for the six defendants have battled over what evidence would be allowed in court in the trial, which is scheduled to begin on April 29.

One thing that caught our eye was the way the government described Nxivm’s aggressive attacks on its perceived enemies…

The government intends to introduce at trial evidence that the defendants and their co-conspirators engaged in aggressive, and, at times, illegal, methods of investigating perceived enemies of Raniere. For instance, the trial evidence will show that Raniere, Bronfman, and Nancy Salzman, among others, engaged an investigative firm that obtained information such as bank statements belonging to perceived Nxivm critics and others. The targets of these efforts included federal judges overseeing litigation in which Nxivm was a party, political operatives, high-ranking politicians, reporters, ex-girlfriends of Raniere, Nxivm’s own lawyers, legal adversaries and their families, John Doe 2 and John Doe 1’s employer. These efforts were undertaken, in part, to attempt to gather evidence of a conspiracy defendants and co-conspirators believed that John Doe 2 was spearheading to ruin Nxivm and to gain an advantage in litigation against perceived enemies.

At times, the defendants and their co-conspirators discussed these efforts in coded language and discussed the illegality of the information. For example, in one email, defendants and co-conspirators discuss efforts at “trying to legitimize” the banking information they had paid to obtain. The defendants and co-conspirators hired another investigative firm that they paid to try and obtain an email password and to conduct a “sting” operation to gather information from Rick Ross, who they were suing, without his counsel present.

Also, its use of scorched-earth legal tactics…

For many years the defendants and their co-conspirators used the legal system to seek retribution against individuals who left Raniere, defected from the Nxivm community or who spoke critically of either, including through the lawsuit underlying Racketeering Act Three. Nxivm has pursued both criminal charges and civil lawsuits in at least three countries. At trial, the government will offer the testimony of witnesses to establish that the defendants instituted these actions in order to instill fear in members of Nxivm and defectors of the organization.

The defendants, and, in particular, Bronfman, sought the assistance of law enforcement to prosecute perceived enemies of Raniere or Nxivm. As one example, in or about 2009, the defendants and their co-conspirators unsuccessfully attempted to have criminal charges instituted against a former sexual partner of Raniere. More recently, in the wake of public disclosure of DOS, Bronfman asked whether any legal charges could be brought against DOS victims. In July 2017, Bronfman unsuccessfully sought to have criminal charges instituted in Canada against a DOS “slave.” After Raniere and Bronfman were alerted to the fact that The New York Times would shortly be publishing an article about DOS, Raniere and Bronfman drafted threatening letters addressed to DOS victims and engaged attorneys in Mexico to contact the DOS “slaves,” including Jane Does 8 and 9, to send the letters.

The government will also introduce evidence that Raniere testified untruthfully in a copyright infringement suit against Microsoft and AT&T — a lawsuit that co-conspirators Bronfman and Nancy Salzman took an active role in his bringing. See Raniere v. Microsoft, et al., 15-CV-540 (N.D. Tex. 2017). Raniere provided false and inconsistent information as to his ownership of the patents at issue, and after he was ordered to pay attorney fees because of his conduct, he submitted a signed declaration purporting not to have access to funds, drafts of which were reviewed by co-conspirators including Bronfman and Nancy Salzman. Raniere then went on to bring a related lawsuit in Washington State, which was promptly dismissed, again resulting in an award of attorney fees for his conduct.

The government’s filings were in response to lengthy arguments made by Nxivm leader Keith Raniere that the government was relying on shoddy information and had acted improperly with its warrants and searches. But the government pointed out that some of Raniere’s evidence supporting his argument was actually very good evidence for the opposite.

For example, one contention in the case is that Raniere and his top lieutenants had recruited “sex slaves” for him, and held women against their will if they rebelled. In his brief, Raniere attached an email he wrote to Lauren Salzman, Nancy’s daughter, about a woman being held in a room for months. Raniere somehow thought the email exchange demonstrated that the woman was free to come and go. But the government pointed out that Lauren Salzman’s message to Raniere was anything but evidence of the woman’s freedom, and in fact is creepy as hell. (And note the Scientology lingo that the Nxians used.)

 

 
“This email confirms the truth of the affiant’s statement and directly contradicts Raniere’s baseless assertions,” the government pointed out in its reply. “First, the email confirms that Jane Doe 4 was, in fact, confined to a room for an ethical ‘breach.’ Second, the email confirms that Jane Doe 4 was held there against her will; she attempted to write to her parents with a request to be ‘let out’ because she was ‘coming undone.’ Third, the email confirms that Salzman prevented Jane Doe 4’s plea from reaching her parents, for fear that her parents would let her out (‘[Jane Doe 4’s sister]…didn’t show the parents bc they are so reactionary’). Fourth, the email confirms that Salzman and Raniere were among those responsible for Jane Doe 4’s confinement, and that Salzman viewed Raniere as the ultimate decision-maker on the subject (‘If there’s anything that you think I should add or do differently please let me know. If not, and if you’re ok with what I’m planning I’ll just report in afterwards.’). Fifth, the email confirms that Jane Doe 4’s sister viewed Salzman as the decision-maker on Jane Doe 4’s confinement insofar as she believed she had to ask Salzman ‘for permission’ to speak to Jane Doe 4. Salzman denied the request on this occasion. Sixth, the email indicates that Salzman cancelled a visit to Jane Doe 4 – who was already ‘coming undone’ – as punishment for Jane Doe 4’s letter to her parents, corroborating Salzman’s role as a decision-maker in Jane Doe 4’s confinement. Seventh, the email confirms that Salzman planned to speak to Jane Doe 4 the next day and that Jane Doe 4 would not be let out of the room.”

So yeah, that maybe wasn’t the best email to submit as evidence on Raniere’s part. We’ll keep watching the docket for more of these disclosures.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on March 13, 2019 at 17:25

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects at The Underground Bunker. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT gmail.com (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)

 

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