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Alleged sex cult NXIVM kept files on its 'enemies,' prosecutor says

The disclosure came during arguments over whether the information should be admitted in evidence at the Brooklyn federal court trial of leader Keith Raniere.

A portrait of Keith Raniere is entered into

A portrait of Keith Raniere is entered into evidence at his trial on charges including racketeering conspiracy, forced labor conspiracy, sex trafficking and more. Photo Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office

The alleged Albany-based cult NXIVM collected financial information about its “enemies” and other persons of interest ranging from federal judges overseeing litigation it was involved in to billionaire Edgar Bronfman, cult investigator Rick Ross and news organizations, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

The disclosure came during legal arguments over whether the information, found in a search of the home of a former NXIVM lieutenant, should be admitted in evidence at the Brooklyn federal court trial of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere on charges that he used the self-help group to coerce women into sex.

After the trial was adjourned for a day due to a juror’s illness, prosecutor Moira Penza told U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis the plastic box with “financial dossiers” including bank account information was found along with $500,000 cash and electronic devices in the basement of Nancy Salzman, Raniere’s second-in-command.

Penza said an investigator should be permitted to describe the discovery of the dossiers to show that NXIVM, which prosecutors say was a criminal organization, had a “covert mission to gather this type of information on individuals they believed were enemies.”

The files, she said, included information on the Albany Times Union, which had done critical stories on NXIVM, politicians and “operatives” including Republican Roger Stone, and NXIVM’s own lawyers, as well as Ross and Bronfman, who opposed the involvement of his daughters Clare and Sara with Raniere.

Raniere, 58, faces up to life in prison if he is convicted of conspiracy, racketeering including sexual exploitation of a minor, sex trafficking and forced labor. NXIVM began in the 1990s pitching a multilevel marketing self-improvement curriculum, and enrolled an estimated 17,000 students.

The trial began last week and has featured testimony from a former British equestrian ordered to have a sex encounter with Raniere after joining a secret “master-slave” women’s “sorority,” and Mark Vicente, an ex-official who got disenchanted as Raniere became revered as a near-god or “oracle” of a “cloistered religion.”

Vicente on Monday said the group encouraged potentially illegal donations to politicians like Hillary Clinton, and described how Raniere slept with more than 20 women and turned a male group called “Society of Protectors” into a misogynistic vehicle to humiliate and try to “break” female members.

Defense lawyers contend that no one was forced to participate in NXIVM by traditional coercion.

On Tuesday, Raniere lawyer Mark Agnifilo urged Garaufis to keep the financial dossiers out of evidence, arguing they shouldn’t be tied to Raniere because of a seizure in Salzman’s basement without testimony from the head of NXIVM’s legal committee, who commissioned them from a Canadian investigative firm.

“They’re trying to back door it in at the last minute,” Agnifilo said.

Salzman, Clare Bronfman and three other members of NXIVM’s inner circle — Lauren Salzman, one-time “Smallville” actress Alison Mack, and Kathy Russell — have previously pleaded guilty in the case.

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