The March 2018 FBI raid of Keith Raniere‘s Mexican villa occurred just before he was going to have a “group (oral sex)” ceremony to test the commitment of the women in his group, according to one of the women who was formerly a part of the alleged sex cult known as NXIVM.
Lauren Salzman, the daughter of NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, took the stand on Tuesday and told the court that while she and Raniere, 58, were taking a nap, the FBI raided the Mexican villa they were staying in. Salzman said that she and other women there tried to stall so the NXIVM founder could flee authorities.
“Honestly, I went into one mode — protect Keith. I closed all the doors, all the blinds,” Salzman testified.
“They were banging on the door,” she continued. “The whole time I was thinking they could just shoot through the door. Legitimately, I might get shot right now. I kept interacting with them because my higher priority was Keith.”
As Salzman and the agents were arguing about whether they had a warrant for Raniere’s arrest, the door was knocked down and “they held me on the floor with four machine guns pointing at me,” Salzman said. Raniere was not able to escape. Instead, he hid in a closet.
Documentary filmmaker and former NXIVM member Mark Vicente previously testified that Raniere was seen as a “kind of god” within the organization.
“I was awe-struck by the — kind of the — what I saw as this intellectual model,” he said. “By the time you saw him, it was a little bit like you were seeing, you know, some kind of god.”
NXIVM was founded by Raniere as a “self-improvement group,” but prosecutors have alleged that women were recruited to be sex slaves. The trial of Raniere, NXIVM’s so-called Vanguard/Master/Grandmaster/Eternal Student, has gone about as expected so far.
The NXIVM sex cult case has already led to multiple guilty pleas. The aforementioned Salzmans, Smallville actress Allison Mack and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman have all pleaded guilty. The same was true of NXIVM bookkeeper Kathy Russell.
The guilty pleas allowed defendants to avoid the type of sex offense charges that Raniere currently faces. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy, child sexual exploitation and possession of child pornography charges.
Matt Naham contributed to this report. [Screengrab via Keith Raniere Conversations]