Jul 27, 2021

Ex-NXIVM president Salzman: I didn't protect daughter from 'likely' psychopath Raniere

Says she failed to shield Lauren Salzman from "a sex-crazed power hungry man taking advantage of damaged people"
Says she failed to shield Lauren Salzman from "a sex-crazed power hungry man taking advantage of damaged people"

Robert Gavin
Albany Times Union
July 27, 2021

Nancy Salzman, former NXIVM president and the one-time ally of Keith Raniere, now calls Raniere "likely a psychopath" and says she did not protect her daughter, Lauren Salzman, from him.

NEW YORK – In a letter to a federal judge seeking leniency for her daughter, former NXIVM president Nancy Salzman said she failed to shield Lauren Salzman from Keith Raniere — a man she now describes as a "sexual predator, a narcissist and likely a psychopath."

Nancy Salzman, who co-founded the cult-like personal growth organization in Colonie with Raniere in 1998, told Senior U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis to "please consider how young Lauren was when she met Keith and my personal failure as a mother to protect her and guide her."

Lauren Salzman, whose crimes include her role in Raniere's confinement of a Mexican woman to a room in her parent's townhouse for nearly two years simply because the woman kissed another man, pleaded guilty in 2019 to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.

She will be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

“Of all the regrettable things I have done with Keith and NXIVM, this by far is the one that gives me the greatest personal sadness,” Salzman told the judge in a letter filed in a sentencing recommendation from her daughter’s lawyers. “I am responsible for Lauren being before you, having endured arrest, prosecution and successful cooperation and now facing her own judgment.”

Lauren Salzman, a former high-ranking NXIVM member who became the prosecution's star witness at Raniere’s 2019 trial, has been in home detention for three years. In that time, the 45-year-old Halfmoon resident has tried to rebuild her life working with dogs and specializing in their skin and coat issues, the defense memo said.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Lauren Salzman faces up to nine years in prison. Federal prosecutors asked the judge to sentence her below the guidelines without giving a specific number.

"Keith's behavior ultimately was cruel and domineering and I (very belatedly) lost belief in the good faith I had harbored for so long," Nancy Salzman told the judge. "When the NXIVM world was unraveling, it was easier for me than it was for Lauren to understand that Keith had lied and withheld information from people, including us, for his own demonic purposes."

Nancy Salzman, who will be sentenced on Sept. 8 for her guilty plea to racketeering conspiracy, admitted she conspired to commit identity theft to get the names and passwords of email accounts of NXIVM's perceived "enemies." Investigators seized boxes containing files on the "enemies" -- and more than $515,000 -- from the basement of her Oregon Trail home in Halfmoon. And prosecutors at Raniere's trial showed jurors a video of Nancy Salzman parroting Raniere's words at a meeting of Jness, a women's group in NXIVM, inside the former Apropos restaurant on Route 9. She repeated Raniere's claims that the age of consent in some places is as low as 12 and that some little children are "perfectly happy" having sex with adults.

Still, when she read the evidence in the government's case against Raniere, Nancy Salzman said she finally understood Raniere was "not the laid-back genius he pretended to be, but was instead a sex-crazed power hungry man taking advantage of damaged people to achieve his sick goals. "

She said her daughter needed time to see Raniere for what he was and what he had done. "Over time, at my urging and with the aid of her attorneys she came to see that Keith was a sexual predator, a narcissist and likely a psychopath," Nancy Salzman told Garaufis.

"When I made the decision to plead guilty and seek to cooperate, I suggested that Lauren do the same," she wrote.

Lauren Salzman, a 1994 graduate of Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, met Raniere at 21, before she graduated from SUNY Oswego.

Her mother became involved with Raniere professionally and sexually. Lauren Salzman eventually conducted a more than 20-year involvement in NXIVM and its Executive Success Programs (ESP). In 2017, she became a '"first-line master" in Raniere's secret club, Dominus Obsequious Sororium (DOS), an organization in which female "slaves" took lifetime vows of obedience to "masters" in a supposedly all-female sorority. But it was run by Raniere, who invented its protocols as means to control women, force their labor and have sex with them.

Women in DOS were burned with brands of Raniere's initials on their groins, forced to wear chains to symbolize collars, starved on low-calorie diets and deprived of sleep.

Lauren Salzman, in a separate letter to Garaufis, said she has nightmares in which Raniere starts DOS again and she is unable to get out. She said that Raniere was cruel to her and her mother, penalizing them for "breaches" if they dared to show interest in other men. It was the same reason Raniere punished the woman kept in the room, which Lauren Salzman has called her worst crime.

In March 2018, the younger Salzman was with Raniere when police arrested him in Mexico. She said he hid in a closet and she faced officers pointing guns at her.

In June 2019, jurors convicted Raniere of all charges, including sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy and racketeering charges that included underlying acts of possessing child pornography, exploitation of a child and extortion. Garaufis sentenced the Halfmoon man to 120 years in prison.

Nancy Salzman, 66, who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in March 2019, told the judge she was too ashamed to tell Lauren, the eldest of her two daughters, that she had been romantically involved with Raniere, now 60, and hoped she would never find out.

"It was part of Keith's evil genius to figure out how to play one person off against another so that everyone would remain weak and insecure," Nancy Salzman told the judge. She said when she learned Lauren was involved with Raniere, she thought he was eccentric but well-intentioned and did not understand the "depth of his derangement and that he was damaging my daughter."

Michael Salzman, Lauren's father, also wrote a letter to the judge, saying Raniere demanded she sever ties with him.

More than 25 letters, filed by defense attorneys Hector J. Diaz and Andrea S. Tazioli, were in the file, including submissions from family members, former classmates and new work clients. One letter writer identified himself as a former member of Britain's Manchester United soccer team, though the person's identity — like most of the names on the letters — was redacted.

Robert Gavin covers state and federal courts, criminal justice issues and legal affairs for the Times Union. Contact him at rgavin@timesunion.com or 518-434-2403.


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