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Nxivm defendant turned witness: Lauren Salzman on being Keith Raniere’s ‘slave’

[Lauren Salzman and Keith Raniere]

Our correspondent Dianne Lipson was again in court today, and gave us a riveting account of defendant-turned-witness Lauren Salzman as she described being Keith Raniere’s slave — while Raniere never took his eyes off of her.

First, here’s Dianne’s account of Thursday’s afternoon session…

When the afternoon started, we were still on re-direct of filmmaker Mark Vicente.

Regarding the NXIVM concept of Feedback, that you were supposed to take criticism without arguing back, Vicente now says this was a way to make you drop your boundaries. (It sounds similar to Scientology; no ‘backflash’ allowed.) And God forbid you argued back to Keith.

On the letter to the DA regarding Barbara Bouchey, Vicente said there was a campaign of sending letters. You were told what points you have to hit in your letter then you wrote it in your own style.


Some of the LeBaron girls became MDI’s — Multidisciplinary Specialists — for Rainbow Cultural Gardens, Nxivm’s educational program for children. Vicente says MDI is a fancy word for “nanny.” MDI’s from different countries immersed the children in several different cultures and languages. (The program is a failure. The children do not know their own language, and speak a combination of languages that is gibberish.) Loreta Garza ran the program with mentorship from Raniere. It was Vicente’s understanding that Rainbow Cultural Gardens was instead of going to school for the children enrolled. The only screening process for the nanny’s recruited from the LeBarons, was Loreta showing Rainiere their pictures.

Vicente was asked if he ever videotaped the defendant having sex with DOS slaves, and Vicente said no.

When asked whether Sarah (Edmondson) had a happy demeanor when describing her brand, Vicente said no, her voice was shaking and she was crying.

In re-cross, Aginfilo tried to show that Vicente’s belief that he was being spied on in 2018-19 was incompatible with Vicente’s actions with film crews at that time, such as going near to India’s workplace. This was the end of Vicente’s testimony.

New witness, Stephen Herbits.

Herbits, according to Wikipedia: “An American businessman, former consultant to several Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Defense, personal friend and advisor to the Bronfman family, former executive vice president of the Seagram Company, former advisor to the President’s Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets, and former secretary general of the World Jewish Congress.”

Herbits was asked to assist Clare and Sara Bronfman in what he thought was public relations. Clare and Sara knew Herbits had political connections, and they thought he had influence over their father, Edgar Bronfman Sr. They encouraged Herbits to go to certain state’s Attorneys General regarding the prosecution of cult expert Rick Ross. Herbits refused, he thought the request was inappropriate and preposterous. Clare and Sara were upset that certain prosecutors were not prosecuting enemies of Nxivm who Clare and Sara wanted prosecuted. Herbits explained to them that prosecutors have discretion over who they will prosecute, and it’s their decision. Clare and Sara wanted Herbits to stop an upcoming story in the Albany Times-Union. Herbits again said no. He thought their requests were inappropriate. Edgar Sr. had asked Herbits to help the girls, and Herbits wouldn’t do what the girls asked. Herbits said he thinks this probably qualified him to be on Nxivm’s enemies list.

Edgar Sr. had told Forbes magazine that he believed his daughters were in a cult. Herbits believes Edgar sought advice from Rick Ross. Herbits did not report a lot of what was going on with the girls to Edgar, he minded his own business.

Herbits read the transcript of the of the LA court proceeding involving the Bronfman sisters’ property in Los Angeles. In the transcript, Herbits is mentioned as having ferried messages from Edgar to Frank Parlato, instructing Parlato regarding the project that the case was about. Herbits says this was flat-out perjury. Herbits does not know Parlato and has never met him. Since the case was already over, Herbits said nothing about this.

At some point, Edgar Sr. stopped taking calls from people who had bad experiences with NXIVM, and Herbits was assigned to take the calls instead. Edgar Sr. wanted to focus on the fact that he loved his daughters.

Herbits got to know Edgar’s sons when he was working on the family’s investment portfolios. The relationship between the sisters, and Edgar’s sons, was not good. It was not one big happy family.

At one point Clare told Herbits that if he couldn’t help her with what she wanted done, she would find someone else who was able to do so. Herbits was getting the feeling that he was becoming an enemy. The sister’s wanted someone to do their bidding no matter what. In an email exchange, Herbits declared that he was not a puppet. Clare apologized, said she did not consider him a puppet.

Clare was becoming worried about an investigation by the Albany Times-Union. She felt that since this was a Hearst publication, there was prejudice against her as part of Nxivm, by the publisher, because of Patty Hearst’s brainwashing in the 1970s. Clare complained that there was no such thing as brainwashing, it had been scientifically debunked. Herbits thought Clare believed that Herbits could go to Edgar and get things taken care of.


Clare thought it would be wonderful if her father could be there when the Dalai Lama came to an event organized by NXIVM.

In an email, Edgar Sr. expressed to Clare that the problem with helping her was she would not share her information about who was funding Rick Ross. Edgar Sr said, I am not supporting Rick Ross. I do not lie. I love you two very much. Someone is lying to you. Who has something to gain by this? I’m giving my love, even if it is not requited. Clare thought an organization called Birthright was helping Ross, but Herbits found that this was not so.

Herbits took a call from Toni Natalie, in which she described her story during and after Nxivm. Joe O’Hara called on behalf of more than one ex-NXian. A call also came from Odato.

In cross-examination, Herbits once again stated that he learned of Parlato’s lawsuit against Clare from the transcripts, and Herbits does not know Parlato. Herbits said that Edgar Sr. had tried Executive Success Programs, but it was not for him. Agnifilo: Was Clare there when Edgar passed? Herbits: Yes, she was there physically. Agnifilo: Was the relationship between Clare and her father complex? Herbits replied,”Complex is a gentle word, yes.”

Re-direct: Regarding Clare being there “physically” when Edgar Sr. died, Herbits said that Edgar Sr.’s sons felt that Clare was reentering Edgar Sr.’s life in a way that was about money. (I think this was around the time that Edgar was dying.)

Re-cross: Agniflo angrily asked, You will begrudge a daughter’s last moments with her father? Herbits became miffed as well: Don’t put words in my mouth. I’ve built my reputation on my honesty and integrity. I am telling the facts as I see it. From ’05 to 13, Clare was pressuring Edgar, disappointing Edgar, asking Edgar to do things on their behalf that created problems, There was an increase in visits, I’m not begrudging, I’m describing the situation as I saw it.

End of Herbits’ testimony.

The evidentiary matter from earlier this week was resolved. The Judge is admitting the evidence.

The next witness was a New York State Police Investigator who is also with a task force that works for the FBI, Charles Fontinelli. Fontinelli was with the team that found the plastic box filled with documents in Nancy Salzman’s basement. Penza had the box there in court. She asked Fontinelli to read the names on the covers of the folders in the box. The names were: Stephen Herbits, Edgar Bronfman, Rick Ross, Charles Schumer, Frank Parlato, David Soares, World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, Toni Natalie, Jubal Aviv, Malcolm Stephen Forbes, Michael Friedman, George Hearst, Mark Falk, Joseph L. Bruno, Elliot L. Spitzer. I did not hear Penza give any information to the jury on what these folders contained. I’m thinking that may come out later.

Friday’s testimony:

Fontanelli was still on direct. He talked about cash found in the house. In a crawl space there was a large shoe box, like for boots, filled with cash. The cash was in bundles. The cash in this large shoe box amounted to $390,180.

There was an UGG shoe box, that one had $15,670 in it. These were in different places in the house. In the closet of a rear bedroom, a shopping bag like from Whole Foods: $109,727. The total was $515,577.

Cross-examination of Fontinelli was done by Teny Geragos.

She mentioned that law enforcement has canines who can sniff out electronic devices. Were there more devices than you expected? Way more, and the canine was going crazy.

Teny brought up that having cash was not illegal if tax issues are not involved. The defendant didn’t disagree.

Teny brought up a box that had a folder with with Frank Parlato’s name. She asked the witness about Nxivm engaging in litigation with Parlato because Parlato stole money from Ms. Bronfman.

The prosecution immediately objected and the objection was sustained.

[What a cheap shot, and clearly for the jury’s benefit. Tsk, tsk, Teny. — T.O.]

The next witness was a man named Sean who represented a website that sold sex toys online. If you buy from his site, it shows up on a credit card record as XR, LLC.

There were two orders of sex items that were under discussion. One took place on May 26, 2017 and was shipped. Another order for more items on May 28, 2017, was never delivered.

Sean is asked to go over a sales invoice from the first purchase. The items:

Remote shock puppy trainer. (Not meant for animals.) $159. Worn around the neck and then there’s a remote control, someone can administer a shock.
Rubber paddle, $35.95.
Rubber strap cage. 299.95.
Heavy duty steel bar suspension kit, $99.
Deluxe thigh swing with wrist cuffs, “So your partner is restrained and at your mercy.” $79.95
Subdued full body strap set. $29.95
$922.74. This order was shipped. Billed to Danielle Padilla.


The next order was never delivered. It was also billed to Danielle, but shipped to Alex Martin. But there was some kind of issue with delivery.

Steel puppy cage. 3.5 ft by 4 ft. $849.
Jail cell. $1049.95
“Good boy wireless puppy plug.”
Puppy ball gag.
Full order was $1730.90.


Cross-examination with Agnifilo: You’ve sold thousands of these sex toys. And it’s 100 percent legal, right?

Of course, the defendant agreed.

Redirect: Witness asked to explain importance of consent. It’s essential. Safe words in BDSM.

In re-cross, again legal, and all of these things can be consensual.

[Why would the government introduce this now, without a direct tie to Keith? Perhaps it comes in later with another witness. — T.O.]

Direct testimony of Lauren Salzman, who just weeks ago, was a defendant until she pled guilty to racketeering and faces up to 20 years in prison. Now, she’s testifying against her former leader, Keith.

She was asked if she was part of Nxivm. Yes. Raniere was known as Vanguard. She was in DOS. Raniere was the leader. He was known as Master or Grandmaster.

Lauren was one of the slaves recruited right under Keith, he was their master.

He was her mentor and teacher. Romantic, physical relationship. From 2001 to 2008 or 2009. Then it picked up again briefly in 2017.

It was a very important relationship to her. Keith was her most important person. She looked up to him and wanted to be like him.

What was your position in DOS? She was a first line member, both a slave and a master. Secret meetings of DOS, three times a week. First at a member’s house but later a house was bought for this purpose. Referred to as the sorority house.

At the start of each meeting, a group naked photo was taken and sent to Keith. Full frontal with brands showing and the women looking happy.

Keith sometimes personally attended. They would get undressed, sit on the floor nude. K would be sitting in a chair, fully clothed.


[Raniere and his “first-line slaves” of DOS]

Keith would talk about various topics. The book they were working on, recruitment, etc.

When DOS became public in June 2017. Operations stopped and they were more focused on PR. At some point Keith wanted to start things over again and recruit, but it never happened.

How old was Lauren when she first met Keith? 21, she was a college student at Oswego.

Lauren came back home and Nancy, her mother, wanted her to go to ESP for six months. If you go for 6 months I’ll support you in whatever you want to do. Lauren felt it was a human potential school helping people achieve their goals.

At the end of the six months, Lauren wanted to stick with ESP.

Nancy was excited with working with Keith. Lauren thought Keith was a smart guy with innovative ideas. He invited Lauren for a walk. They talked about different things. Keith encouraged Lauren to move out from her mother’s house. And around the same time, Nancy started charging Lauren rent, so that motivated her to move out.

Lauren on Pam Cafritz: Keith’s closest person. A 30-year relationship.

Pam and Marianna were inseparable. The two of them and Keith was like a unit. Was it romantic and sexual? Lauren: I think so.

Keith asked Lauren not to tell Nancy about their relationship, which for Lauren was not an easy thing to do.

Lauren was asked if she was with anyone besides Keith. No, she considered it a monogamous relationship on her part (not on Keith’s).

It’s 2013, and Lauren is becoming interested in someone else. She was hoping she’d be strong enough to leave. But Keith said if she was willing to reinvest in their relationship, they could have children.

Keith also told her that because of Lauren’s interest in someone else, Keith was thinking of resigning. The community would no longer have a leader. She took it to heart.

Lauren was checking with Keith over decisions, like buying a house, visiting her grandparents and even medical decisions.

Keith told Lauren that a good weight was 100 pounds.

Lauren goes into myths about Keith, that he could affect technology and the weather. There was a story that was told, that Keith was on a walk with someone and things weren’t going well on the walk, and so it rained on the other person but not on Keith. Lauren: I didn’t consider this a metaphor, I considered it an actual incident.

Keith took intimate photos of Lauren around 2005. At 8 Hale Dr. In the library. In the bed. Pictures of her vagina. Lauren was concerned about these photos, but Keith assured her that no one would see them.

Regarding grooming of her pubic hair, if she really loved Keith she would go natural, and let it grow.

Keith was having threesomes with women. Lauren did participate partly because she was curious. Cafritz shared with her that there was a period of time when Keith wanted this kind of sex every day, and that was more than Cafritz wanted. She wasn’t really happy about it.

There were many women who were unhappy with their relationship with Keith.

If someone wanted to leave, the other women would speak to them and tell them that they were having an emotional reaction. If they left, they weren’t working through their issues.

Lauren committed a couple of ethical breaches. One, a writing project, Lauren was unhappy about it. She didn’t want to do it. But Lauren being unhappy was destructive to the rest of the people. So Lauren apologized.

Another breach. When Keith was saying it was a good time to have children. There was a lot of horseplay and rough-housing in the volleyball games. During one game, Lauren jumped on a man. It made it look like Lauren wanted other men. So Keith called off the whole children idea.

Lauren didn’t go to the next volleyball match.

She was close to tears at this point in her testimony.

Another ethical breach involved a Nxivm member, a woman, who was married to another woman. When they didn’t ask Keith to be their sperm donor, this was seen as a bad thing. Lauren tried to help smooth it over.

Lauren had very much wanted a child. Especially getting closer to 30. In 2013 supposed to have kid, but Keith kept putting it off. When she found out that Keith was going to have a child by Marianna, Lauren had a complete meltdown. Lauren then had to apologize to Marianna.

Lauren was asked to commit to Keith with no relationship and no children, and she agreed to do so.

Lauren said most of the inner circle women did have sexual relations with Keith.

Some of the women had private nicknames. Lauren’s private nickname: Forlauren. Because she always seemed to be suffering.

More direct testimony of Lauren on Monday.

Thank you, Dianne!


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 17, 2019 at 17:30

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 (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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