Albany – The nine U.S. citizens slaughtered in an ambush Monday were from a Mormon community in northern Mexico where NXIVM recruited teenagers for a "girls school" to live in the Capital Region under the care of a high-ranking "slave" for Keith Raniere.
The Mormon community’s ties to the disgraced NXIVM leader's cult-like organization were revealed in May during the testimony of NXIVM defector Mark Vicente, a filmmaker based in Los Angeles who once lived in Knox Woods, the same Halfmoon townhouse complex as Raniere.
The nine women and children killed -- including eight-month-old twins -- were traveling in a mountainous area where the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel has been waging a turf war. The victims were related to the extended LeBaron family community in the state of Chihuahua.
Vicente’s testimony in May helped lead to the conviction of Raniere, 59, formerly of Halfmoon, on all charges of sex trafficking, forced labor and racketeering in his trial in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. Raniere, known within NXIVM as “Vanguard,” faces the possibility of life in prison at his sentencing on Jan. 17 by Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis.
According to Moira Kim Penza, the lead federal prosecutor at Raniere's trial, Raniere created a “girls school” for Mexican teenagers, many of whom were recruited from within the LeBaron community to live in the Albany area under the care of a "first-line slave" for Raniere.
Raniere secretly operated a"master/slave" group known as DOS or “Dominus Obsequious Sororium," which translates from Latin as "Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions." Under the orders of Raniere, the "Grand Master," women in DOS were starved on 500-calorie-a-day diets and forced to provide "collateral" in the form of sexually explicit photos or false information about themselves and their family to ensure their loyalty. They also were required to have Raniere's initials branded onto their pelvic areas by a person using a cauterizing pen.
Penza, now a partner at the firm of Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz in Manhattan, told the Times Union that some of the girls attending the so-called school took courses at Jness, a purported women’s group in NXIVM. There, they were “exposed to Raniere’s pedophilic and misogynistic teachings, and, I believe, being groomed to have sex with Raniere,” the former prosecutor explained.
“I believe the girls from the LeBaron community were targeted specifically because, having been raised in a polygamist sect, they were more vulnerable to Raniere’s teachings on sexuality, including that it is natural for women to be monogamous and for men to have more than one partner—a philosophy that served Raniere’s own sexual preferences,” Penza said.
At a Jness meeting in Apropos, a former Halfmoon restaurant on Route 9, NXIVM president Nancy Salzman parroted Raniere's words that some children are "adult-like," mentally capable of experiencing sex with adults and "perfectly happy" doing so.
During the trial, Vicente testified that he spent eight years working on a 2016 documentary, Encender EL Cocorazon, which was based in LeBaron and chronicled efforts to stand up to violence in Mexico. The film included interviews with Julian LeBaron, whose brother, Benjamin LeBaron, the spiritual leader of the LeBaron community and an anti-violence activist, was murdered in 2009.
Julian LeBaron, a relative of the victims in the massacre, by Wednesday afternoon had received condolences from more than 300 people on his Facebook page.
Vicente testified that during the making of Encender EL Cocorazon, members of NXIVM's executive board, including Seagram's heiress Clare Bronfman, became angry at him because he was "minimizing" Raniere in the film and not recognizing the "greatness of Raniere."
"And I said, 'No, I'm not, this is the story I'm following that started,'" Vicente testified. "And (Clare Bronfman), at one point, really exploded at me saying, 'It's unbelievable that given everything you've been given by this man, you can't -- you know, you can't give him tribute.' And so that went on for years."
Bronfman, who pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal immigrants for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification, will be sentenced Jan. 8. NXIVM president Nancy Salzman and other former top NXIVM officials, including her daughter, Lauren Salzman, actress Allison Mack and NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell, also await sentencing.
On May 9, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko asked Vicente about a separate program for girls from LeBaron that NXIVM set up known as Rainbow Cultural Gardens.
Vicente said the program was headed by NXIVM member Rosa Laura Junco, the daughter of a media mogul in Mexico. The program, built on Raniere's teachings, claimed to immerse children in nine languages at the same time.
Junco was identified at the trial as a “first-line” slave of Raniere in DOS, which means she answered directly to him.
Vicente also testified that India Oxenberg, the daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg and who is now out of NXIVM and DOS, was put in charge of Delegates, a company in the Halfmoon area within NXIVM whose members were mostly younger people from within the LeBaron community.
"You call somebody, 'I need my laundry picked up, or I need to be picked up from the airport' kind of thing," Vicente said. "People would call her or text her and tell her what we needed and she would look at the workforce that was available and then assign them."
Vicente added: "A lot of the LeBaron girls were working for Delegates, and then some of the other younger members. They were -- they were, you know, younger people that didn't really have a career choice yet that were working for her."
Members of the LeBaron community, who are said to trace their origins to the 1950s, live about 70 miles south of the border town of Douglas, Ariz.
To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here