The judge presiding over a sex-trafficking case involving the NXIVM secret society ordered defense attorneys Dec. 18 to submit the names of all contributors to a defense trust fund—which co-defendant Clare Bronfman set up and is the primary contributor—by noon on Dec. 20.
The full list of names will help the court properly conduct the anticipated Curcio hearings, according to the judge’s order. Bronfman’s irrevocable trust was found to be paying the legal fees of the other NXIVM defendants and certain witnesses.
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York warned that if the defendants are unable to submit the names by the deadline, he wants them to “provide an explanation” detailing the reasons why. He also said the court would then “take such further steps as are necessary to identify them,” according to court documents. The defendants may submit the names ex parte and under seal.
Prosecutors say New York-based NXIVM masqueraded as a self-help company that ran “executive-success programs” and other professional-development curricula. Multiple high-ranking members of the society were previously arraigned at the U.S. district court in Brooklyn on sex-trafficking and racketeering conspiracy charges, stemming from a superseding indictment filed on July 24.
Bronfman, an heiress to the multibillion-dollar Seagram beverage company fortune, is NXIVM’s largest financial backer, having contributed at least $150 million during her time with the group, according to a 2010 story in Vanity Fair magazine. Other members who have been indicted so far include the group’s leader, Keith Raniere; actress Allison Mack; the society’s bookkeeper, Kathy Russell; the president, Nancy Salzman; and her daughter, Lauren Salzman.
The defendants, who are scheduled to stand trial on March 18, 2019, all have pleaded not guilty.
The judge’s recent order comes after the government, on Nov. 30, filed a letter advising the court of a potential conflict of interest because the attorneys representing the defendants were all being paid by Bronfman. At the time, the judge ordered the defendants to each respond to the letter individually, according to court documents.
In early December, each of the attorneys filed responses on the defendants’ behalf, arguing that no such conflict of interest exists. Keith Raniere’s attorneys (Marc Agnifilo, Terry Geragos, and Paul DerOhannesian) argued that the government filed the letter out of frustration since none of the defendants had pleaded guilty.
“The government files this Curcio motion now, six months after being told about the trust, because of this vexation over the fact that none of the defendants have pleaded guilty and wish to blame this on divided loyalties. The government, however, conveniently ignores the most obvious reason for defendants not pleading guilty. That is, of course, because the defendants are not guilty,” the attorneys wrote in their response.
NXIVM previously made headlines when Mack, known for her role on the TV series “Smallville,” was arrested in connection with the group. Mack allegedly recruited girls for a secret society within NXIVM, and founded by Raniere, called DOS, or “The Vow,” around 2015. DOS is purported to be an acronym for the Latin “dominus obsequious sororium,” which translates loosely as “master over the slave women.” The secret society allegedly operated as a pyramid scheme, with levels of “slaves,” headed by “masters”; slaves were then expected to recruit their own slaves, thus becoming masters themselves, according to court documents.
Raniere, the purported master of the DOS inner circle, had access to all the girls in the group, court documents indicate. Some of NXIVM’s inner teachings also allegedly touted the need for men to have multiple sex partners, but for women to be monogamous, prosecutors say.
Prior to the indictment, NXIVM’s enterprise was largely shrouded in secrecy. Prosecutors say the group recruited members on the condition they would give up personal, often embarrassing, information about themselves, including compromising images or videos, as “collateral.” Once inside, members allegedly were required to regularly provide additional collateral to ensure they kept secret the society’s activities and inner workings. Following the recent allegations, the company announced the suspension of all operations until further notice.