This is Part 2 of ‘In-Depth Dani’s Testimony’
Dani’s testimony reported here was given on Thursday, May 23, 2019. She will continue her testimony on Tuesday, May 28.
In Part 1, Dani told about her early life, her taking her first Nxivm intensive when she was 16, and how Lauren Salzman persuaded her to come to Albany and work for Nxivm instead of completing high school.
An important calculation that was taught in the intensive – that Keith had determined that – unless enough people took ESP classes, the world would end in 10-15 years persuaded then 16-year-old Daniela that she must quit high school and move to Albany to serve the mission of Keith Alan Raniere.
Judge Garaufis is on the bench. Moira Penza is doing the inquiry for the prosecution.
[Dani decided to quit high school and go to Albany]
Q So what happened after that?
A … we were all happy about my decision, including my parents. … And the plan … coincided with … Keith Raniere’s birthday…. celebration. V week….
Q So is this August 2002?
Q How old were you then?
A 16. [She would turn 17 in October]
Q Do you remember actually meeting the defendant for the first time? [At V-Week]
A … he looked smart and acted smart…. he certainly wasn’t normal. Like it wasn’t just like, oh, a plain guy. He had that vibe of a geeky man. He was also very attentive and very soft-spoken and had a sweet presence about him.
Q When you say he was attentive, what do you mean?
A Well, when I met him -… I was with my parents — he called me by my first name. I had not met him yet and he called me by my name. And he said, ‘I hear you’re very smart.’…
Q How did that make you feel?
A Incredibly flattered. … I’m not one to crush on celebrities, but … given my temperament and what was important to me in life, he was the smartest man in the world. So he was like a rock star. Like that moment was, like, ‘oh, my God.’ And then he said my name and he called me smart. So that moment was so special…. And my parents were with me, so it was a truly special moment.
Q How do you feel about that moment, looking back?
A It was all a lie.
Q … after [V-Week] ended, you stayed in the Albany area; is that right?
A Yes… I started working with Karen [Unterreiner]…
[Dani testified about her work at Nxivm at the administrative offices at 455 New Karner Road. She was assigned data entry. It didn’t take up too much of her time so she would clean refrigerators, floors, bathrooms, organize the storage room, and do other menial tasks.]
Q Were you paid?
A …. I was paid a few times in the beginning, and then that stopped and I wasn’t paid because they told me that I was … there on a visitor’s visa so they couldn’t figure out how to pay me [legally].
[Dani testified how her older sister Mariana came to Albany. She had been having personal difficulties in Mexico and Dani suggested Mariana come to Albany and take classes. Mariana was sleeping a lot and had an eating disorder which pre-dated her meeting Raniere.]
Q And did something happen?
A Yes. … [Mariana] made… contact with Pam Cafritz. And a friendship was born… overnight. They used to say Pam took Mariana on…. They became really close, really fast. … it was explained to me Pam was an athlete and Pam had taken an interest in Marianna as an athlete too….
But it was strange because all of a sudden [Pam] was buying things for Mariana. Mariana started playing tennis again, and Pam would pay for the court time and the gear… It was strange.
Q Did you talk to Mariana about it?
A No, I didn’t. I felt happy that she was doing better… She wasn’t sleeping … all day anymore. She had some light back in her. She was starting to play tennis, which she loved. So, I thought she was doing better.
Q After … V-Week, … would you ever see the Defendant?
A Sporadically, yes.
Q Where would you see him?
A I would see him … at forums. … when Vanguard would show up for a … couple hours… to answer questions…. Also, during volleyball nights, which was on Friday night… Keith always attended. … I think the reason for everybody to go [to volleyball] was so they could see Keith… in a little more informal setting… and ask him maybe, a personal question… it was an opportunity to have more personal contact. … there were a bunch of people on the sidelines just … waiting to speak to Vanguard and speaking to each other, and it was, like, a community event.
Q Did there come a time when you actually did have a longer conversation with the Defendant?
A Yes…. I was at the center. … It was around 2003…. I got the courage to approach him…. I was … disappointed with the work that I was doing. It’s not what I expected. I was very disillusioned and also felt very troubled by the fact that I had not been able to do any meaningful work or help in any meaningful way. And I felt like there was no point to me being there and I wanted to go back to school and back to my path. And I approached him to ask him … to get his opinion….
Q And what did he say?
A He was very attentive. He asked me a series of …. ESP-type questions: ‘What do you think your purpose is?’ ‘What do you want to do… in the mission?’ ‘Have you written your mission statement?’ … he said… ‘so, what do you like to do?’ ‘What did you do before?’ ‘What were your plans?’
… I shared with him what it was, and he very effectively zoned in [on] my academic interests, like that’s what I want[ed]. And he said, ‘Well, …how high in math did you get to?’ And he wrote a few equations on the board.… a quadratic equation, and there was some calculus. I didn’t take calculus in high school. I think he was gauging my level of education. … it was very encouraging that he was precise about it.
And then he said, ‘You like intellectual, academic things, right?’ And he zoned in perfectly. And he gave me a brain teaser. … it was simple…. I gave him the answer right away, and I thought he was very pleased…. the conversation continued, and he said, ‘We should talk more.’ And he gave me another brain teaser that was more difficult. And he told me … ‘When you solve it, let me know’….
… we said good-bye, and I ran into the other room. … I wanted to solve it, I wanted to impress him, I wanted to show off. I wanted him to know how smart I was. So, I went into one of the rooms in the back…. And I thought really hard and I solved it. I think it was a matter of minutes. … I caught him before he left… and I gave him the answer.
… he was surprised… I was very happy with myself. And he smiled and… he … gave me … his contact information….
Q Did Karen [Unterreiner] tell you anything else about the Defendant’s impressions of you?
A Yes. She said …. that Keith had reprimanded her because she had a genius [Dani] in the admin office and she hadn’t even realized it.
Q So, how did you feel when Karen told you that?
A It went to my head. I felt very flattered, I felt validated, I felt recognized, I felt smart. Right to the heart.
Q After that, did you start communicating with the Defendant?
A Yes. I started communicating with him via e-mail and… one-on-one contact.
So, I was no longer completely shy to approach him maybe at a volleyball game or maybe when he was at the center. There was …some degree of closeness.
Q … … did he specifically offer that he would tutor you?
A Yes, he did say he could teach me.
Q And was that … important to you?
A It was massive.… I had taken a year off [high school] to help save the world, but by no means were my plans, my academic future and my dreams, on full stop. … I was there to help, and I wasn’t helping. I was doing data entry. I thought at the time I was dragging my feet with programming. I couldn’t do that. And I wasn’t helping in any way. So, I wanted to continue with my education.
So the moment he floated the idea of ‘I could teach you,’ it was like, ‘wow, you mean you could teach me, like, an actual education.’ So, it was an alternate path had opened.
Q Did the Defendant actually have conversations with you about … formal education, versus what he was offering?
A Yes. … [he said] ‘Don’t go to school I will teach you,’ … We’re talking about replacing an Ivy League education, a formal academic life. And he [said] … ‘Well, with ESP, and the tools in ESP, the degree of freedom, also being without integration, and being … more advanced … we actually could achieve better things than with traditional education.’
Q Did you ever receive an education from the Defendant?
Q How far did you end up going in school?
A That first year of high school was the last time I actually attended school…. So, as far as degrees of study, the highest degree I have is a GED.
Q During this time period when you’re now communicating with the defendant, are you continuing to work in the admin office?
A Yes. I’m continuing to work… I now made contact with Keith so it’s definitely something changed in that dynamic.
Q Daniela, when you were in the admin office were you aware that there was cash kept in the office?
A Yes, I was.
Q How did you come to learn that?
A … I was processing the applications for the students for the intensives and the classes… I knew the different forms of payment. … some of them paid by credit card, debit card, some of them paid by check and some of them paid with cash. So the applications that came in with cash I had instructions to enter in a particular way into the system.
Q And what would you enter when somebody paid with a credit card?
A Payment by credit card.
Q … what if someone paid by check?
A Payment with check.
Q What happens with somebody’s pays with cash?
A Then we do not enter it as cash. Even though there is a category called “Cash,” we entered it under the category “Scholarship Admin.”
Q What happens to the cash?
A The cash gets put in the top right drawer of Karen Unterreiner’s desk in the admin office.
Q What was the point of entering it as a scholarship instead of as cash?
A The point was to not pay taxes on the cash. So the cash would not be on the books.
Q And, so, the people who paid the cash did not actually receive scholarships?
A That’s right.
Q So did there come a time when you did take money from the office?
Q Can you explain?
A I stole $6,000 from the admin office where I was working. I have no excuse for it. I was not raised that way. It was a stupid decision; a stupid, impulsive decision and I felt terrible about it, so I put the money back right away, but the feeling of guilt consumed me.
Q Do you remember approximately when this happened?
A Yeah, I was about 17 [in 2003.]
Q Now, how long did you keep the $6,000?
A Maybe a day.
Q How did you feel while you had it?
A I felt paranoid. I was looking [at] everyone to see [if] somebody had noticed… I felt everybody could see right through me. My heart was racing. I couldn’t sleep. I felt really bad.
Q And you said you put it back?
Q You put all of it back?
Q At that time did you tell anyone?
Q Eventually did you tell someone?
A I told one person.
Q Who was that person?
A I told Keith.
Q Why did you tell the defendant?
A Well, even though I had put it back, I was struggling… I felt really bad still. I had stolen some money and I didn’t think I had that in me … I wanted to tell someone… for some kind of relief. I told him [Keith] because… he was a person that I had started to trust. We were building a friendship…. I thought he would maybe help me bring some clarity.… he was the Vanguard, the creator of all of these things; knew human nature, I thought, better than most. I think I did it trying to feel better, trying to find a way to understand what I had done. Also… to confess, I guess. It was that kind of a desire.
Q So you did tell the defendant?
Q What did he say to you?
A … there was definitely a sense of gravity to the subject. … he was very… neutral. It was very understanding…. it wasn’t,’ oh, how could you do this?’ and a disciplining act like I would expect from my parents or something like that. It was an exploration…. The … first reaction out of him was that he already knew …. That was very surprising to me. So, I told him I had done this thing [stealing and returning the money] and he tells me he already knew that.
Q What did you understand that to mean, that he already knew?
A I thought that he [meant he] had eyes everywhere and he knew everything that came and went, but I have to say I didn’t believe him. He said that, but I didn’t believe that was true.
Q Was your impression that he was conveying that he knew everything in a mystical sort of way?
A Yes…. but at the time I knew it was not true.
Q Did you confront him with the fact that you knew that wasn’t true?
A No. … I wasn’t in a position to confront him …. it was like a mentorship relationship…. I was confessing something that I did … that was really bad….
Q What else did he say after you told him that?
A We had a very… colorful conversation that… it wasn’t like a feel-good conversation. He actually, I thought, was understanding and hit my concerns about myself, about the core of myself, which is exactly what had been troubling me. And he says to [me] guiding… I felt… I’ve done this thing — yeah, I put [the money] back, but why does it still bother me? Because it’s as if you have a blank page and you stain it. You can’t erase it. It’s going to be stained forever. Now I’m a person who stole forever. I can’t undo that. I did it. I can’t undo that and I felt — it’s a bit dramatic – but I felt ruined. I wasn’t this honest person any longer. And he addressed that, and he said, ‘yes, you cannot … get that back, but that’s the nature of things. It’s like when you lie, you now know that lying is a possibility. So you stole. Now you know that stealing is a possibility. Now, you can leave that the way it is or correct it — and you correct it.’
And he said this, which I thought was interesting… you could actually be a better leader of people because now you know what it’s like to steal and choose not to steal and you can speak about it. You can speak to it because you now know more than someone who has never done it.’
Q Did he say anything else in that conversation?
A Yes… it was a lengthy conversation. It was an important conversation. He said… it wasn’t the end of the world; that it was about what I did with that, knowing that I had done that from then forward. So I did feel a degree of relief and a little bit of more calm and understanding about myself.
Q … Did you think the conversation was over?
A Yes… I thought … that was the extent of the issue.… I thought … I confessed, we talked about it and… the conversation was very focused into myself internally, [the] internal work that I needed to do [on myself] to understand. … I thought it was over because I took the money and I put it back…. [The] external – I stole money and I put it back – was done…. There was nothing [more] to be done about that. All of it was about me. What do I do about this thing that I was capable of [stealing]. … What happened next was .. a phone conversation. He called me and … explained … that … I needed to talk to Karen and he needed to tell Nancy and that it was going to be difficult, but he was going to be there for me throughout….
And I was like, ‘okay,’ and he said, ‘you know, there are consequences to your actions,’ … but it was a friendly conversation and he said he was going to be there for me. That it was going to be difficult, but it was essentially good for me, important for me, and he was going to be there at the end. I was taken aback and what happened next was hell. It was hell.
I did speak to Karen. Nancy spoke to me and had… sessions of questioning and ‘how are you going to fix it?’ and I remember being completely confused… [about] how to fix something that was already fixed. … it’s not like — do I need to pay more money back? Is there going to be interest? It was something that I could not understand and it was aggressive … it felt like a punishment to me which what I did was really wrong so I took it. …. I took all of it and that’s what I deserve.
And there was some kind of an intensive … some extra-modular… I felt shame because I did something that was really bad, and I was part of this module and breakout group that was helping me at the time and in the middle of the breakout group … Barbara Jeske, who was leading the discussion… turns to me and said, ‘So, what do you think, Daniela? How does that relate to your stealing the money?’
And I was – ‘so, how does she know? Did they tell everyone?’ And they did… at the time I took all of it. I thought this is a punishment I deserved somehow. This is going to make it better. I have to go through this like [Raniere] said and it — but it was horrible. They spoke to my parents. My parents, like me, felt horrible shame…. they didn’t raise me to steal money. My father is the opposite of that. My father is a very honorable man … he never cheats. He’s super straight. … I felt horrible because when they talked to them, Nancy spoke to them, they — it was humiliating to them.
Because, like me, they felt that their daughter had stolen and they took it. They just took that thing that was happening that felt like punishment … and it was terrible.
Q How many other people in the intensive seemed to know what you had done?
A About a dozen people….
Q How did that make you feel?
Q Did Nancy Salzman use any terms to describe you?
Q What happened?
A I had several conversations in that afternoon/night with Nancy. And she was talking to me pretty aggressively and I [smiled nervously]… And I remember them screaming at me ‘why are you smiling? Is this funny to you? Does this make you happy? You are a suppressive.’ That was drilled into me. I was freaking out. I was very nervous. I didn’t think I was smiling. And I was wondering to myself maybe that’s why I stole the money because maybe I am a suppressive.
Q What is the idea of a suppressive?
A In ESP — and I must clarify that that’s what I thought at the time. I don’t think I’m a suppressive. I was confused at the time. In the ESP intensives, a suppressive was a person who was cross-wired. So, in a very simplistic way, a normal person they see something good, they feel good. They see something bad, they feel bad. So they see a little baby laughing, ‘oh, that feels good.’ You see the baby being hurt, oh, you feel bad. A suppressive is someone who has that crossed. They may see something good in the world and they feel bad so they want to squash it. That’s how it was explained.
Q So they think bad thoughts about the happy baby?
A Yes, in essence.
Q This concept of people being suppressives or acting suppressively, was that something that would come up frequently?
A It was centric to the … understanding of the world in ESP terms because it was really a suppressive towards a stronger world. It was all of us through our disintegration and suppressive tendencies which we all have, according to ESP. Then there were people who were full-on suppressives and they call that taking the fall. If there’s a threshold where you have all of these suppressive tendencies and you cross this threshold and apparently here is where you lose your conscious and so now you are fully suppressive and you turn to the dark side, I suppose.
Q Is it fair to say that at the time when you were having this conversation with Nancy that that was a real fear, a fear of being a suppressive?
A Yes. And being called a suppressive was a serious accusation.
Q And were other people in the community afraid of being labeled as suppressives or afraid of being suppressive?
A Yeah. I think nobody wants to be called bad.
Q Did you ever hear… other people actually being called suppressives?
A There was a person who was actually mentioned in intensives. Her name [is] Toni Natalie. She took the fall and was a full suppressive.
Q … what happens next?
A I was fired from my job in the admin office. I think that was fair. And, well, I had this series of … how to fix it, what I needed to do which was all very confusing. I took it more as a period of punishment because it wasn’t clear to me what else I could do to fix it other than… putting back the money [which she did before telling Raniere].
Q This notion that you had to fix something, was that something that would come up repeatedly during your time in ESP?
A Yes. And it was refined further and eventually called healing your ethical breach.
Q And when that would happen, would there be anyone ever [to] explain to you what you needed to do to fix it?
A No, not exactly. In fact, it was part of the ethical breach was you needed to figure out yourself or at least that’s how it happened to me. I can’t speak to the rest [who had ethical breaches] because I became progressively isolated from the community and I didn’t have contact with these concepts firsthand. I wasn’t taught them. I just was disciplined with them.
But… the idea was that … I commit an ethical breach, something that breaches my own ethics. But that nonetheless has damage, physical damage to the world… So the ethical breach was like something exploded and it changes everything else so there’s no way to contain that and one must figure out what it takes to fix it… to contain all the ripple effect… there were a series of steps. You needed to make an ethical breach plan. So what are you going to do to counteract each of the salient negative effects and you make a plan of what it’s going to take. And at some point, it was ‘you’re not the one who can approve your own ethical breach. You have to go to the people who you have damaged and they will tell you it’s enough or not enough. It’s not up to you’ and so on and so forth.
Q So going back to this incident after Nancy speaks to you, so, you lose your job in the admin office, but you weren’t being paid for that; correct?
A No, I wasn’t.
Q But what are you doing with the time that you have?
A I am looking for odd jobs and … I find odd jobs. … running errands for people. I worked as an assistant to a real estate agent [Nxivm member Franca DiCrescenzo] I was dog sitting, housesitting, taking dry cleaning. I was looking to make a buck so I could… continue surviving.
[Stay tuned for Part 3.]