Feds move to seize homes
Posted May 24, 2018 7:25 a.m. EDT
HALFMOON, N.Y. _ The Justice Department has moved to seize two homes in Halfmoon where branding ceremonies and sexual encounters involving NXIVM leader Keith Raniere allegedly took place, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
One of the residences is a townhouse on Hale Drive in the Knox Woods development that had been nicknamed "The Library" by Raniere, 57, who repeatedly had sex there with an actress in her 30s _ identified in court filings only as "Jane Doe 1" _ who has been characterized by federal authorities as a victim of sex trafficking and forced labor.
The nondescript townhouse on Hale Drive is a short walk from the small residence where Raniere 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.
The Hale Drive residence, which has a hot tub and a large bed on the second floor, was searched by the FBI around the same time the nearby residence of NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman was raided on March 27. 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.
"Raniere was very anxious about security at the Hale Drive property, and multiple witnesses have stated that there are security cameras outside the Hale Drive property," the federal complaint states.
"Raniere also insisted that the shades at the Hale Drive property be kept drawn, and on one occasion when he believed the shades had been moved by someone, he interrogated Jane Doe 1 about whether she had moved the shades to satisfy himself that no one else had entered the Hale Drive Property without his knowledge."
The second residence, on Grenadier Court in the same development, is owned by former television actress Allison Mack, who along with Raniere was indicted on federal charges last month.
The U.S. attorney's office in Brookyn, which is leading the investigation, said the two properties were "used to commit or to facilitate the commission" of federal crimes.
The Times Union first reported last month that Mack, 35, was identified in FBI records filed in support of federal search warrant applications as an alleged co-conspirator with Raniere in his efforts to coerce women into joining the secret club.
The indictment charges Raniere and Mack with multiple counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor. They each face a potential minimum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted.
FBI 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.
"Allison Mack recruited women to join what was purported to be a female mentorship group that was, in fact, created and led by Keith Raniere," U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn said in a recent statement. "The victims were then exploited, both sexually and for their labor, to the defendants' benefit. This office and our law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting predators who victimize others through sex trafficking and forced labor."
Mack, an actress who is best known for her role in the television series "Smallville," had initially been listed in a federal criminal complaint as Raniere's unidentified co-conspirator. She was arrested in Brooklyn after returning from Mexico following Raniere's arrest there, and is being held on conditions that include confinement to her parents' California residence.
According to people familiar with NXIVM, Mack joined the organization about a decade ago, around the same time several other young actresses were pulled into its ranks, including Nicki Clyne, Grace Park and Kristin Kreuk, who recruited Mack. Kreuk left NXIVM several years ago _ before the slave-sex club was allegedly formed by Raniere _ and has denounced the practices made public recently.
Mack was with Raniere in Mexico when he was taken into custody on March 25 by Mexican federal police officers, who arrested Raniere at the request of U.S. law enforcement authorities.
Raniere, whose organization has been described by experts as a cult, was arrested at a luxury villa in Puerto Vallarta.
The federal complaint alleges that Raniere 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.
The federal civil complaint filed Wednesday indicates at least one of the branding incidents took place in Brooklyn.
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.
In Mexico, authorities said, Raniere got rid of his mobile phone and used only encrypted email to communicate with his followers. It took authorities nearly two months to locate and arrest him.
The search warrant records indicate there are other federal crimes 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.
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