NXIVM recruiter Nancy Salzman has pleaded guilty: What happens next?
Last year, former nurse and hypnotherapist Nancy Salzman pled guilty to racketeering in connection with NXIVM. Victims of NXIVM’s leadership describe NXIVM as a sex cult that brainwashed its victims and ran like a pyramid scheme. Like the NXIVM cult’s main founder Keith Raniere, Salzman is still awaiting sentencing.
According to former members, NXIVM cult co-founder Nancy Salzman designed many of the courses meant to brainwash its members herself. However, until the premiere of The Vow’s first episode on HBO, no one knew who she was or about her contribution to NXIVM. Here’s what we know so far.
NXIVM formed in the 1990s with the stated mission of “building a better world.” Their full mission statement was a twelve-point oath recited by members where they promised to rid themselves of “all parasitic and envy-based habits.” This would apparently allow them to use their wealth wisely, for themselves and the world.
The full NXIVM cult vow seems innocuous enough. It reads like any other New Age-inspired text about taking radical responsibility for one’s actions and raising oneself to a higher vibration. However, the second point sticks out: “There are no ultimate victims; therefore, I will not choose to be a victim.”
Given the NXIVM cult’s history of victimizing members through sexual exploitation and financial abuse, the point reads more like gaslighting than an innocent attempt to empower members.
Nancy Salzman’s program developments
Nancy Salzman was a hypnotist before she co-founded NXIVM with Keith Raniere. In 1997, Nancy Salzman founded ESP, the Executive Success Program. The techniques she employed were marketed as “self-improvement,” and thousands of wealthy people signed up, including famous actors.
However, in 2002, articles began appearing criticizing Nancy Salzman’s methods. Part of NXIVM’s training used tactics like “rational inquiry,” which trained members to gain higher understandings by “rationalizing” their more basic wants. Later that year and in 2003, Vanity Fair and Forbes would publish articles critical of NXIVM.
Cult experts and a psychiatrist described NXIVM’s programs as “expensive brainwashing.” Psychiatrist Rick Ross was one of the first people to decry Nancy Salzman’s tactics in a 2002 paper examining the techniques NXIVM used. Keith Raniere sued him for publishing the paper since he trademarked his programs. The legal battle would last until 2017.
Testimony on Nancy Salzman’s programs
Ross testified to the jury during Keith Raniere’s trial that he believed the ESP program Salzman developed could cause great harm on a massive scale. Ross had been hired by the parents of an NXIVM member to extract and “deprogram” their adult children. It was one of over 500 cult deprogramming Ross conducted over his career.
“It became clear to me that this was a personality-driven group defined by its leader — eerily reminiscent to Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard,” Ross told the jury at Keith Raniere’s trial.
Nancy Salzman’s guilty plea
The criminal charges were brought after several victims came forward claiming Keith Raniere sexually abused them, branded his sigil on them with a pen, and extorted money from them. One victim even said NXIVM locked her in a room for two years for “non-compliance.”
After investigations by journalists and police, Raniere was arrested in 2018 in Mexico. Shortly after, Nancy Salzman’s home was raided and she was arrested. She pled guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in March 2019. The charge specifically outlined that Salzman hacked into emails to destroy evidence of NXIVM’s wrongdoing.
“I justified them by saying that what we were doing was for the greater good,” she tearfully told the court during her plea. She apologized for the trouble she caused and to her daughter Lauren, who was a high-ranking member NXIVM. Lauren faced indictments for her role in DOS, NXIVM’s elite branch responsible for sex trafficking.
Has Nancy Salzman been sentenced?
Like other NXIVM cult members awaiting sentencing, Salzman’s sentence has been pushed back indefinitely. Like Keith Raniere’s second-in-command Allison Mack, her sentencing was scheduled for July. Mack’s sentencing was pushed back so her attorneys could gather evidence showing her “good character,” then again due to COVID.
Salzman is at home with her daughter in New York while she awaits sentencing. Raniere is housed in a federal detention facility in Brooklyn while he awaits his sentence.
Salzman could face up to forty-one months in jail and a $250,o00 fine. She is on a curfew which she asked to be lifted, and cannot have contact with anyone in NXIVM. The court denied her request to lift her curfew and remove her ankle bracelet but allowed her to contact one person from NXIVM, her daughter Lauren.