NXIVM sex cult member who cooperated avoids prison time

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Branded Women (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Branded Women (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

A former member of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere’s inner circle who was charged in his sex trafficking enterprise avoided prison at sentencing Wednesday after prosecutors cited her extraordinary cooperation.

Lauren Salzman was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court to time served for her role in the scandal-ridden, cult-like secret society of brainwashed women, who included millionaires and actors. He also ordered her to perform 300 hours of community service.

In a letter two weeks ago to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, prosecutors noted that her guilty plea to racketeering would normally call for a sentence of seven to nine years in prison. But they cited her “credible, detailed" testimony against Raniere at his 2019 trial as reason for leniency.

Salzman, a one-time member of NXIVM's executive board who pleaded guilty and agreed to become a government cooperator, was one of two witnesses to testify at Raniere's trial about submitting to a barbaric ritual meant to show his slaves devotion to him.

Salzman testified about being held down in 2017 while another Raniere devotee used a cauterizing pen to etch his initials into an area near her pelvis, describing a bizarre initiation procedure.

“Master, please brand me. It would be an honor,” she recalled saying just before she was branded.

She testified that it was “the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.”

She also testified that she organized other brandings, inviting women to her house, where they were required to strip naked and sit blindfolded in a circle as part of the ritual.

The first woman branded, she said, “was screaming and squealing.”

Last October, Garaufis sentenced Raniere to 120 years in prison for turning some adherents into sex slaves branded with his initials and sexually abusing a 15-year-old.

At Raniere's sentencing, 15 victims called for a lengthy prison term.

Last month, “Smallville" actor Allison Mack was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in NXIVM. Prosecutors said she cooperated with the prosecution after pleading guilty in the case.

Without cooperating, Mack would have faced between 14 and 17 1/2 years behind bars, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

Her sentence included prison time after prosecutors said she became a “master” for “slaves” she ordered “to perform labor, take nude photographs, and in some cases, to engage in sex acts with Raniere.”

As authorities closed in on Raniere, he fled to Mexico with Mack and others to try to reconstitute the group there. He was arrested and sent to the United States in March 2018; Mack was arrested a few days later.

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