NEW YORK >> For 20 years, Nancy Salzman and Keith Raniere were business partners and allies who promised to improve people’s lives.
They led the self-help organization that they co-founded in the 1990s as it grew into the cultlike group NXIVM, and when it fell apart in 2018, Salzman and Raniere became co-defendants, accused of running a criminal enterprise that subjected women to sexual abuse.
Raniere was convicted on several charges and sentenced to 120 years in prison; Salzman pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering conspiracy, and former NXIVM members have described her as an enabler who made Raniere’s abuse possible.
But as Salzman’s sentencing hearing approached, she sought to publicly distance herself from Raniere. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, Salzman’s lawyers portrayed her as Raniere’s dupe, writing that she had been “fooled, controlled, humiliated and ultimately led to engage in criminal conduct by an egotistical, self-important sex fiend.”
But Garaufis did not appear to be persuaded, and today Salzman was sentenced to 42 months in prison — slightly more than the sentence prosecutors had sought.
As Salzman’s sentencing approached, former NXIVM members began speaking out. They described her as indispensable to Raniere’s control of the group and said she had played a central part in crafting his philosophical ideas into curricula taught to NXIVM’s followers.
Among those, according to testimony in Raniere’s trial, were teachings that portrayed woman as inferior and categorized anyone who questioned the group’s structure as destructive.
In their sentencing memo to Garaufis, prosecutors enumerated the crimes committed by Salzman, who served as NXIVM’s president and was known within the group as Prefect.
She had taken part in unlawful surveillance and investigation of NXIVM’s perceived critics and enemies, prosecutors wrote; had sought banking records belonging to some of those people; and had altered evidence to be produced in a lawsuit in New Jersey.
“The defendant exalted Raniere’s teachings and ideology and demanded absolute commitment and deference” to him, prosecutors added. “Raniere’s teachings, which Nancy Salzman helped to create and promote, were designed to maintain power and control over NXIVM members.”