In a year-and-a-half since the New York Times published an exposé into the “self-help” group NXIVM, alleging that female members were blackmailed, branded, and referred to as “slaves,” the organization has fallen apart. While its foundation was initially slow to crack, in the past few months, three defendants have admitted in court to many of the allegations made in the Times piece, including blackmail and enslaving members. And though he hasn’t yet taken a guilty plea like other defendants, things aren’t looking good for NXIVM co-founder Keith Raniere.
Below, an exhaustive timeline of the case’s developments.
October 17, 2017: The New York Times publishes a major exposé about the organization and its branding ritual.
In a bombshell New York Times investigation, actress Sarah Edmondson speaks out about her experience in NXIVM. She claims that Lauren Salzman, “a rock star” within the group, had recruited her into a secret sorority within the organization nearly a decade earlier. That internal group is later revealed to be called “DOS.” Edmondson says she was not permitted to join it before providing damaging information about herself, known within NXIVM as “collateral.”
Once in the group, Edmondson claims she — a “slave” — had to text her unidentified “master” every morning and night as part of a training session, or face penalties such as forced fasting. She also alleges that the sorority had a branding ritual, in which “slaves” had their flesh cauterized with Raniere’s initials.
March 27, 2018: The FBI arrests and charges founder Keith Raniere.
After fleeing to Mexico following the Times story, NXIVM founder Keith Raniere is arrested and charged with sex trafficking.
March 28: Reports emerge that Smallville actress Kristin Kreuk recruited women into the cult.
Just one day after the FBI catches Raniere, news outlets start to speculate what other people were involved in NXIVM’s suspected criminal activities. One such person is Kristin Kreuk, who claims that while she took courses at NXIVM, she was never involved in any inner cult. (Per NXIVM’s website, the organization — formerly known as Executive Success Programs, Inc. — offered “programs that provide the philosophical and practical foundation necessary to acquire and build the skills for success.”)
April 20: Smallville actress Allison Mack is arrested and charged with sex trafficking and forced labor.
Another person suspected of being involved in NXIVM is Smallville actress Allison Mack, who is arrested and charged with sex trafficking and forced labor charges. In Brooklyn court, assistant U.S. Attorney Moira Penza says, “Ms. Mack was one of the top members of a highly organized scheme which was designed to provide sex to [Raniere]. Under the guise of female empowerment, she starved women until they fit her co-defendant’s sexual feminine ideal.” During that appearance, Mack pleads not guilty.
Days later, a video emerges of Mack praising her experience working for JNess, an older NXIVM-affiliated “women’s empowerment group,” which she calls “the most gratifying thing [she’s] ever done.”
May 30: Mack claims she came up the infamous branding ritual.
In a rare Times interview, Mack explains the inner workings of DOS. In order to join the alleged slave-master sorority, she says members are ordered to adhere to low-calorie diets, subject themselves to humiliation, and undergo the branding ritual, which Mack claims she instituted herself.
July 24: Clare Bronfman, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, and Kathy Russell are arrested and charged with racketeering conspiracy for their alleged involvement in NXIVM.
Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, her daughter Lauren Salzman, and former NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russel are arrested and charged with racketeering conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that all four defendants recruited and groomed sexual partners for Raniere, and used “harassment, coercion and abusive litigation to intimidate and attack perceived enemies and critics.”
March 13: Nancy Salzman pleads guilty, confessing that she tracked and monitored women within NXIVM.
Nancy Salzman becomes the first person to take a guilty plea, saying in court that she closely monitored suspected moles within NXIVM, and ordered people to “destroy video tapes” that documented Raniere’s “teachings.”
“I want you to know I am pleading guilty because I am, in fact, guilty,” she says through sobs. “I accept that some of the things I did were not just wrong, but sometimes criminal.”
March 14: Raniere is hit with child pornography charges.
Federal prosecutors say that Raniere had sex with a 15-year-old girl — who later became his first “sex slave” — and that he documented the encounters. He’s also accused of possessing child pornography from 2005 and 2018.
March 27: Bronfman faints in court.
When asked by Brooklyn federal court judge Nicholas G. Garaufis whether disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti was one of her attorneys, Bronfman passes out in court and has to be removed by stretcher. Later in court, it is revealed her lawyer Mark Geragos had met with prosecutors alongside Avenatti the week before.
April 2: Lauren Salzman admits she enslaved a woman for two years as she pleads guilty.
Two weeks after her mother, Lauren Salzman becomes the second defendant to plead guilty, admitting that she was a member of DOS, and that she “knowingly and intentionally harbored” an unnamed woman from March 2010 to April 2012. She also expresses remorse, saying, “I’m very sorry for my poor decision-making and decisions that result in the harm to others and not the just victims in this case but to hundreds of members of our community and their friends and families as well.”
April 8: Mack pleads guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of racketeering.
“I have come to the conclusion that I must take full responsibility for my conduct and that’s why I am pleading guilty today,” Mack says in court, admitting that she was a member of DOS, and that she blackmailed other women with “collateral.” Her sentencing is scheduled for September 11.