For some time, we’ve been following the hijinks at Nxivm, the upstate New York cult selling personal success seminars. We have published a few articles comparing Nxivm to Scientology. In March 2018, Nxivm cult founder Keith Raniere was arrested in Mexico and returned to the US to face charges of sex slavery and human trafficking.
In a June 12 court hearing, Raniere was denied bail, after offering an elaborate package of $10 million in cash plus offering to provide his own force of armed guards around the clock to keep him from violating any of the bail conditions. In the hearing, the prosecution remarked that a superseding indictment would be issued with additional charges against Raniere and with charges against additional defendants.
The second shoe dropped on Tuesday, June 24, with significant additional charges, and four additional defendants. In addition to Raniere and former actress Allison Mack, the complaint added Nancy Salzman, the #2 in Nxivm and her daughter Lauren, Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman and Kathy Russell, the longtime bookkeeper for Nxivm. Most of the new charges have to do with identity theft to commit other crimes, and the indictment also says that the government is looking to seize ill-gotten gains from the scheme. It appears that the indictment now categorizes Nxivm as an “enterprise,” language usually used to bring in the RICO statute, which enhances penalties for individual crimes when committed by an organized criminal group.
The Nxivm saga is fascinating, because it suggests that small cults can be extremely wealthy, can buy significant influence internationally, and can significantly harm members. What’s unfolding for Nxivm is not a direct foreshadowing of what may happen to Scientology, but it does show that the government is able to unleash significant legal firepower against organizations who flout the law with such impunity once the usual government inertia has been disrupted. The impossible-to-predict issue is just when that threshold is crossed. Continue reading “Nxivm Cult Meltdown Continues: New Charges, New Defendants”