BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – About two weeks after her mother, former NXIVM president Nancy Salzman cut a deal, a woman said to have been a “first-line master” in the bizarre sex cult has pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Lauren Salzman, 42, entered her plea Monday under seal, kicking off a week otherwise dominated by conflict-of-interest hearings over the involvement in the case of celebrity attorneys Michael Avenatti and Mark Geragos.
Suggesting that Salzman may cooperate with prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar wrote in a letter Thursday that the government seeks to redact certain information before a transcript of Salzman’s March 25 plea hearing is made public.
Salzman pleaded guilty to two counts to violating federal anti-racketeering law and RICO conspiracy. She was additionally charged with forced labor and wire fraud.
In the purported self-help group that her mother founded in the 1990s with Keith Raniere, Salzman was said to be a “slave master” in a sub-group called DOS where women were recruited, extorted and forced into sexual relationships with Raniere. In some cases, women were branded on or around their pubic areas with the initials of Raniere and fellow NXIVM member Alison Mack, an actress who starred on “Smallville” when The CW network was still known as The WB.
Raniere faces a sweeping set of charges including sex trafficking and child pornography. Unlike his co-defendants he has been denied pretrial release.
Nancy Salzman, the NXIVM co-founder, pleaded guilty in March to racketeering conspiracy charges. Her daughter is now the second defendant in the case to do so.
Still awaiting trial alongside Raniere and Mack are NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell and Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor empire.
Mack’s attorneys wrote in a letter Friday that they’re continuing pretrial negotiations on her behalf.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis has been conducting conflict-of-interest hearings for the defendants this week on the heels of reports that Bronfman’s attorney, Geragos, is the unnamed co-conspirator described in recent criminal complaints filed in New York and California against Michael Avenatti.
As he did for Bronfman Thursday, Garaufis questioned Raniere today to ensure that he knows Geragos and his daughter, Teny, who’s on Raniere’s defense team, could both be compromised.
Both Bronfman and Raniere said they wanted to keep working with their respective Geragos attorneys.
Reporters learned Wednesday that Avenatti and Mark Geragos met with Eastern District prosecutors on Bronfman’s behalf last week. On Thursday, Garaufis said Avenatti had proposed turning over information to prosecutors in exchange for a “benefit” to Bronfman. On Friday, he said that benefit was a request for the government to change their position on her request to sever her trial from Raniere’s.
Garaufis also warned the lawyers that, due to all the attention the case has received this week as a result of Avenatti’s involvement, they might need to expand the juror pool. He called this unlikely. Five hundred potential jurors have been called to fill out questionnaires.
Lauren Salzman is set to be sentenced on Sept. 11, 2019, at 11 a.m. Opening arguments in the trial are set for April 29.