The former president and co-founder of NXIVM—who has admitted to going to extreme lengths to protect the shadowy self-help group and its deranged sex-cult leader—has been sentenced to 42 months in prison.
Nancy Salzman, 66, pleaded guilty in March 2019 to racketeering conspiracy for her role in the upstate New York group that manipulated thousands of members under the guise of personal growth through sacrifice. Prosecutors asked for a sentence on the “high end” of the recommended range of 33 to 41 months, noting that while Salzman cooperated against NXIVM founder Keith Raniere, she benefited for decades as his fiercely loyal second-in-command.
“Many of the NXIVM teachings promulgated by Nancy Salzman disparaged or humiliated women and blamed victims of abuse,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Hajjar wrote in an August sentencing memo. “Raniere’s teachings, which Nancy Salzman helped to create and promote, were designed to maintain power and control over NXIVM members.”
Salzman “instructed NXIVM members that anyone who challenged Raniere or NXIVM, including family members and friends, were ‘suppressives’ and must be avoided,” prosecutors added in the memo.
The Wednesday sentencing came after an emotional hearing in Brooklyn federal court, where several former members detailed the abuse they endured from Salzman.
Ivy Nevares, a longtime NXIVM member, sent in an audio statement that was played ahead of the verdict, where she detailed how Salzman was instrumental and essential to the existence of NXIVM and its crimes against its followers. Nevares, who worked for Salzman for over a decade, detailed the “abuses” she endured from Salzman, ranging from financial ruin to mental manipulation.
“Salzman’s damage is vast and deep,” she said, before asking the judge for a high sentence against the former president. “Salzman has the capacity for empathy. However, she uses it to wield her victim’s own empathy against them, playing them to her self-serving interests.”
Sarah Edmondson, a former top NXIVM recruiter who spoke out against the group in 2017, also submitted a video statement, telling Salzman she’s “not sure you will ever understand how your lies and faulty teachings affected me and others,” Edmondson said. "I still have dreams about you where I’m being punished by you for something trivial and I can’t speak up for fear of public shaming.”
Before her sentencing, Salzman tearfully addressed the court—and apologized for working with Raniere for decades.
“I am horrified and ashamed that I promoted... him,” she said. Her daughter, Lauren Salzman, who has also admitted to crimes associated with NXIVM, was in the courtroom.
Salzman’s sentencing makes her the fifth member of NXIVM’s inner circle to be punished for their roles in the criminal enterprise. Last October, Raniere was sentenced to 121 years in prison after prosecutors said he had sex with multiple underage girls, made members illegally monitor his enemies, and forced women he impregnated to have abortions.
NXIVM, a purported women’s empowerment organization, is most notorious for its sub-group, D.O.S., which forced members to brand themselves with Raniere’s initials near their crotch with a cautery pen—without anesthesia—and have sex with him.
Prosecutors allege that Salzman helped Raniere launch NXIVM in Albany, New York, in 1998 and was among the top promoters of its teachings. Behind the scenes, according to several women who testified during Raniere’s trial, the NXIVM founder would ask Salzman to deal with women in the group who were causing problems.
“[Salzman] would take all of Keith Raniere’s philosophical ideas,” one former member, who was identified as Sylvie on the stand, told jurors at Raniere’s 2019 trial. “She would create an educational model out of it with him that she would then teach.”
Her unwavering loyalty also led Salzman to surveil NXIVM’s perceived enemies, alter tapes that were used as evidence in at least one civil trial, and target members who spoke out against Raniere.
“Nancy worked on Keith’s women,” Daniela, a former NXIVM member who testified about being kept in a room for two years after defying Raniere’s edicts, told jurors at his trial.
In a sentencing memo, Salzman’s defense team insisted she’s committed to taking responsibility for her actions and hopes to avoid jail time to care for her own health problems and those of her “elderly and very ill mother.”
Her lawyers also paint Salzman as the victim in Raniere’s scheme, stating that for the past two decades she “has been fooled, controlled, humiliated, and ultimately led to engage in criminal conduct by an egotistical, self-important sex fiend who told all who would listen about his (fake) solution to mankind’s problems.”
“That is not to say that Nancy did not have agency or free will, or that she lacks responsibility for her conduct,” the sentencing memo, written by her attorneys David Stern and Robert Soloway, said. “Indeed, she lives every day bearing and appreciating the full weight of her wrongdoing while she served as Keith Raniere’s collaborator and enabler within the NXIVM community.”
There is just one more former NXIVM leader still awaiting sentencing: the group’s bookkeeper, Kathy Russell. In July, Lauren Salzman was sentenced to five years probation and Allison Mack, the former Smallville actress who played a key role in the D.O.S sex cult, was sentenced to three years in prison in June. Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram fortune and NXIVM’s largest donor, was sentenced last September to 81 months in prison.