Lesko’s arrival spells S-U-P-E-R-S-E-D-I-N-G   I-N-D-I-C-T-M-E-N-T

Prosecutor Mark J. Lesko

Earlier this week, we ran a post announcing that a new Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), Mark J. Lesko, had been added to the team of prosecutors who are pursuing a variety of charges against Keith Raniere and several high-ranking members of his NXIVM sex-slaver cult.

At the time, we were not 100% certain that we had identified the correct person because the biographical information we were able to find did not seem to line up with someone at the level of an AUSA.

But we knew one thing for certain: if the Mark J. Lesko that we had identified online and on social media was the same Mark J. Lesko who showed up in court last Monday, “That does not augur well for the defendants”.

Well, with a little more research – and a little more asking around – we can now confirm that it is indeed The Mark J. Lesko who is now part of the team prosecuting Raniere, Allison Mack, Clare Bronfman, Lauren Salzman, Nancy Salzman, and Kathy Russell.

And that is definitely more bad news for the NXIVM Numbskulls and their Scheme Team of defense attorneys.

So, here are a few more interesting facts about Mark J. Lesko:

– He was admitted to practice law in New York State in August 2018. Given his prior work as an AUSA in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), we assume this was really a re-admission.

– He previously worked for Richard P. Donoghue, the current U.S. Attorney for the EDNY, when Donoghue headed up the Criminal Division there.

– Given Donoghue’s status, he could have brought back Lesko to the EDNY in a higher-level position such as Chief or Deputy Chief, provided that Lesko was willing to commit to staying there for several years.

– Why would anyone with Lesko’s outstanding record as an attorney, a politician, a vice president of a college, and a top-level executive come back to work on a case that he didn’t consider to be both important and winnable? The answer is he wouldn’t!

– But if Lesko didn’t want to make a long-term commitment – and was just coming back to help ensure that Raniere and his co-defendants are convicted and properly sentenced to long stints in federal prison – he could have been hired as a Senior Litigation Counsel (SLC) – which would only require him to stay around for at least one year.


The SLC program was created for the express purpose of recognizing truly outstanding non-supervisory Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) based on their overall careers as litigators. To qualify, an AUSA must meet the following criteria:
– Have at least five years’ experience as an attorney, the major portion of such experience having been as an active litigator in the Federal court system;
– When nominated, be at a salary at least equivalent to GS-15, step 1;
– Be recognized as an outstanding litigator in the Federal court system as demonstrated by awards, letters of commendation, press coverage, or other material attesting to the success and quality of the attorney’s advocacy skills;
– Be responsible for the in-office training of AUSAs less knowledgeable in advocacy skills;
– Not supervise any AUSAs; and
– Have the stated intention of remaining with the Department of Justice for at least one year after designation, and be available, when it will not interfere with assigned caseload, to serve as a rotating faculty member at the National Advocacy Center.

Mark J. Lesko would easily meet each of those criteria.

So, now that the NXIVM case is moving through the discovery stage – and getting closer to the trial stage – the U.S. Attorney has brought Lesko on board to augment the highly talented and experienced team of Moira Kim Penza and Tanya Hajjar.


Prosecution team leaves court – L-r Kevin Trowel, Tanya Hajjar and Moira Penza.

And despite rank speculation to the contrary, this move does not indicate that Donoghue was unhappy with the performance of Penza and Hajjar, the two AUSAs who have been going toe-to-toe with the previously well-financed horde of attorneys that have been representing the six defendants in the case (We recently found out that the attorneys representing Raniere, Mack, the Salzmans and Russell have already blown through more than 75% of the funds that Clare Bronfman set aside for them). In fact, if Lesko was hired as an SLC, he would explicitly not be allowed to supervise any other AUSAs.

What the addition of Lesko does indicate, however, is that this case is about to get much more complicated – (“much more complicated” is spelled:  S-U-P-E-R-S-E-D-I-N-G   I-N-D-I-C-T-M-E-N-T) – and that Donoghue is doing whatever is necessary to ensure that his team has enough resources to win.

At this point, it appears that Kevin Trowel, who specializes in prosecuting corrupt public officials, will still be involved in the EDNY case. The question then becomes whether the EDNY will actually be willing to prosecute some of the public officials in Upstate New York who aided and abetted the NXIVM/ESP crime syndicate for almost 20-years: e.g., Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares; New York State Senior Investigator Rodger Kirsopp; Albany City Judge Holly A. Trexler; etc.

The Office of the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of New York (NDNY) was never willing to investigate – let alone prosecute –  any of the public officials who enabled Raniere and his cronies to carry-on their criminal enterprise. Let’s hope the EDNY doesn’t also decide to turn a blind eye towards those scoundrels.


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K.R. Claviger


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  • If he was re-instated (not sure if that’s the correct word) to practice law in NY in August 2018, then it appears the US Attorney was planning on adding him to the prosecution team prior to 2018. summer.

  • This is extremely welcome news. “We the people” should bring the best talent available to bear against the planned “it was all consensual and harmless” defense. Raniere and company flagrantly broke many laws and irreparably harmed and scarred scores of people. I and others on this blog know some personally. Some on this blog are victims.

    Mark my words: He was clearly escalating, and unchecked, would have continued to. I shudder to think of how far he would have gone. He MUST be convicted. At least he is stopped for now.

  • Hey Claviger,

    Nice piece bro, but you’re doing your readers a disservice by being such a kiss-ass towards Penza and Co. You have zero objectivity here. You act like a fanboy for the government. I expect more from a so-called Albany attorney.

    Guess what?

    Lesko is FAR too senior of an attorney to serve underneath Penza while merely doing the extra ‘grunt work’ that’ll come with a superseding indictment.

    Regardless of the fact that he’s not been designated to officially supervise Penza’s team, Lesko is FAR TOO SENIOR to merely help Penza’s team with the extra leg-work involved in having a new superseding indictment. Get a clue.

    I have no doubt that Penza will remain as the ‘official’ head of the prosecution team (since I’m guessing that Donoghue doesn’t wish to embarrass his team by demoting her) but Lesko was likely brought in to stem the tide of Penza’s FUCK UPS and her LACK of negotiating success with the other side.

    You can sense (from the defense motions) that the defense attorneys seem to FUCKING HATE Penza. The defense attorneys don’t seem to have even a working relationship with her.

    It’s NOT normal to have ZERO people flipping in a case with so many defendants. This can only happen if the prosecution is offering SHITTY DEALS which don’t contain proper incentives for people to flip.

    Penza is just too self righteous to offer Nancy and Lauren a set of properly incentivized “mamma/daughter” plea deals.

    I suspect that Lesko will ensure that the prosecution sweetens its plea deal offers in the coming weeks/months, possibly leading to Lauren and Nancy agreeing to cooperate for the government.

    Guess what, Claviger? …The announcement of any superseding indictments won’t prove SHIT about why Lesko was brought in. It also won’t vindicate your pathetic attempt to kiss Penza’s butt and deny her failures. It’ll only prove what everybody already KNEW, that a superseding indictment was IMMINENT all along.

    You might as well predict that a rainstorm is coming soon to Seattle, then take credit for it after it happens. The superseding indictments are as imminent as a fucking rainstorm in Seattle.

    You’re refusing to even ENTERTAIN the idea that Lesko was brought in to better strategize the trial for the prosecution. Lesko is not a Lieutenant. He’s more like a fucking General or a Field Marshall. It doesn’t matter what his ‘official’ job title is, he was likely brought in to collaborate with HIGH LEVEL STRATEGY and to stem the tide of Penza’s obvious FAILURES and FUCK UPS in this case.

  • Mark Lesko, who prosecuted the Muttontown slavery case and the conviction of the sitting NY judge, went to Georgetown, and the Mark Lesko who was admitted to the bar in 2018 went to Georgetown, if that helps your identification. It’s an ideal combo of skills for this case. Returning ASUA is no surprise. There’s a shortage of US attorneys in that area. Donoghue himself returned as a temporary appointment to help with the shortage and has stayed past the year appointment.

  • Good post Frankie…….you are catching on. As I have stated previously the political enablers of all this must be punished or all of this will be in vain.

    • True Lala. The other fantastic news is that under the new NY State statutes the GBD ladies and any underage lads, as well, have until the age of 28 to seek criminal charges or age 55 to sue if they were molested before the age of 17.

      And there’ll be no “time-barred” obstacles to Federal prosecution if any interstate or international sexual molestation crimes were perpetrated on the GBD recruits that haven’t yet reached their 28th birthday.

      And, despite all the carping about “consent,” GUESS WHAT?, a 16 year old’s “consent” is meaningless in the eyes of the law.

      There’s no “safe word” to prevent prosecution of a child molester who recruited GBD girls into the “BDSM lifestyle” while they were “on their knees” even if they were begging to be “empowered.”

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” He also appeared in "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM, and was credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premieres on May 22, 2022.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com