Half-million in cash was seized from NXIVM president's house

Unsealed court records indicate actress Allison Mack was co-conspirator

Albany Times-Union/April 12, 2018

By Brendan J. Lyons

Half Moon — FBI agents seized more than $520,000 in cash when they raided the Saratoga County residence of NXIVM President Nancy Salzman last month as part of a widening U.S. Justice Department investigation of the secretive organization.

Federal search warrant documents unsealed by a judge this week at the request of the Times Union indicate the U.S. currency was stuffed in bags, envelopes and shoe boxes, including one shoe box that held more than $390,000.

The FBI agents who raided Salzman's Oregon Trail residence in Halfmoon also seized numerous computers, data-storage devices, cameras, various mobile phones and BlackBerrys, and small amounts of Mexican and Russian currency, the records indicate.

Evidence also was seized from a nearby townhouse that was raided by federal agents that same day — March 27 — and had allegedly been used for years as a private sex lair by Keith Raniere. The items seized from that residence, on Hale Drive in the Knox Woods subdivision, included audio-video recording equipment, a box of unidentified white pills, computer storage devices, binders, VHS tapes, and a book titled "History of Torture."

The beige townhouse on Hale Drive is a short walk from the small residence where Raniere had lived for more than 15 years before he abruptly flew to Mexico last fall -- after he became the target of an intensive federal criminal investigation.

FBI affidavits filed in support of the search warrant applications also confirm that Allison Mack, a television actress who has been part of Raniere's inner circle in NXIVM for many years, was an alleged co-conspirator with Raniere in his efforts to recruit women into a secret slave-master club.

The records say Mack helped recruit women into the club and made them pose for nude photographs that she would forward to Raniere. She also delivered some of the women to Raniere for sexual encounters, and at least one alleged victim described the sex as unwanted.

Raniere was arrested March 25 at a luxury villa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. He was with several female devotees, including Mack, when Mexican federal police took him into custody and deported him to the United States, where he was arrested on a federal criminal complaint charging him with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor.

The federal complaint alleges that Raniere, known to his followers as "The Vanguard," organized the secret group within NXIVM in which women said they were coerced into joining a slave-master club and later branded with a design that included the initials of Raniere and Mack.

Raniere, in statements previously posted on NXIVM's website, had characterized the slave-master group as a consenting, private "sorority" and said that he and the corporation had no role in it.

But federal court records indicate emails seized from Raniere's private messaging accounts "support the conclusion that Raniere created" the club, which was known as "Dominus Obsequious Sororium," which means "Master Over the Slave Women."

The women in the group, according to the federal complaint, were lured into the club by other female NXIVM members, including Mack, who considered Raniere her "grand master," and were required to provide "collateral" in order to join. If they tried to leave, they were threatened that their collateral — sometimes damaging information about family members or close-up photographs of their genitalia — would be released.

"Collateral consisted of material or information that the prospective slave would not want revealed because it would be ruinous to the prospective slave herself and/or someone close to her," states an FBI agent's affidavit filed as part of the complaint.

Raniere is being held without bond at a federal detention center in Brooklyn and is scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge on Friday afternoon.

The federal search warrant records also disclose the support that Raniere has received from Clare W. Bronfman, an heiress of the Seagram Co. business empire who has described herself as the operations director of NXIVM. The records indicate Bronfman assisted Raniere in sending threatening letters purported to be from a Mexican attorney to women who had defected from the secret club or criticized NXIVM.

"Additionally, the heiress has made multiple attempts to have criminal charges brought against a former DOS slave, who has discussed her experience in the media," the search warrant documents state.

Raniere fled to Mexico last fall with Bronfman, a member of NXIVM's executive board who has supplied Raniere with access to millions of dollars and private jets, the records indicate.

"Prior to this trip, R.aniere had not flown out of the country since 2015, when he visited the heiress's private island in Fiji," according to the FBI.

In Mexico, authorities said, Raniere dumped his mobile phone and used only encrypted email to communicate with his followers. It took authorities nearly two months to locate and arrest him in Mexico.

The U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case, is expected to ask a judge to keep Raniere in custody without bond. They said his access to large amounts of cash and private jets make him a flight risk. They also described him as dangerous.

Property records indicate the Hale Drive residence has been owned since 2004 by a now-inactive corporation, Executive Housing & Properties, which lists Salzman as its chief executive officer. The corporation's address, 455 New Karner Road in Albany, is also the location of NXIVM's headquarters.

In the federal criminal complaint filed against Raniere, prosecutors said the residence known as the Library is where Raniere, 57, repeatedly had sex with an unidentified actress in her 30s. Raniere and Mack are accused of coercing the woman into becoming part of a secretive slave-master sex club associated with NXIVM.

The Hale Drive townhouse is where federal authorities say the unidentified actress, who is listed as "Jane Doe 1" in the criminal complaint, became a victim of sex trafficking and forced labor. The actress lived in Brooklyn during the time she was allegedly a victim of Raniere's -- which is part of the reason the case is being pursued in Brooklyn.

During one of her trips to Halfmoon, the actress said Mack instructed her to meet Raniere in the middle of the night near his residence. He allegedly instructed the actress to remove her clothing, placed a blindfold over her eyes and drove her around. Once he stopped the vehicle, they walked through some woods to a shack where the actress said she was tied to a table and forced to engage in oral sex with an unidentified person who was in the room with Raniere. It's unclear if the unidentified person was male or female.

Some experts have described NXIVM as a cult, and the criminal prosecution of Raniere has forced the secretive man who calls himself "Vanguard" under the spotlight of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.

But the search warrant records indicate there are other federal crimes also being investigated. Sources close to NXIVM have previously alleged, in court records, that the organization was involved in kidnapping, money laundering, tax evasion and human trafficking.

A former NXIVM associate, Kristen M. Keeffe, who defected from the organization several years ago, alleged in 2015 that large amounts of cash were stored at Salzman's residence, and that money collected from people who took NXIVM training sessions in Mexico was funneled across the border into the United States. Keeffe, in a court filing, claimed that Salzman, among others, would allegedly "bring the cash over the border."

The money, which was allegedly funneled through the bank account of a Mexican associate, was "logged on the system as a scholarship, and cash was kept in Nancy's house," Keeffe said in a conversation attributed to her that was filed in Albany County Court.

In a federal court filing, the Justice Department said that for the past 18 months Raniere had been using a credit card and bank account in the name of a former NXIVM associate and girlfriend, Pamela Cafritz, who died in November 2016. Federal prosecutors said the bank account holds about $8 million.

Copies of some of the American Express credit card statements associated with an account that belonged to Cafritz indicate there were numerous purchases made with that card after her death. The statements, shared with the Times Union last year, indicate the account was used to make purchases from iTunes and Amazon and to make payments to a Saratoga Springs chiropractor.

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