This is Part 3 in our series on Sylvie, the first witness in the trial of Keith Alan Raniere.
She was a Nxivm member for about 12 years – and became a DOS slave around 2016.
She brings us inside Nxivm in a unique way and also gives us some insights into Clare Bronfman, with whom she had a special relationship.
She was the first witness called – and she gives a good overview of what it was like to be part of Nxivm.
AUSA Moira Penza is examining Sylvie. The judge is Nicholas G. Garaufis [Referred to as THE COURT]
In support of the ruling of the court in the trial of Keith Raniere, Sylvie’s last name is not being used by Frank Report. Neither are we publishing her picture.
Clare Proposed Visa Fraud
Q When you… returned to England after the J1 visa and efforts to bring you back, can you describe more what the efforts were to bring you back to the United States?
A Yes. So Clare …. she had…. visa lawyers that she was working with, she had a plan that we could create a company — or she already had a company name or an LLC or something that was called Athletics, and that I could be made to look like an investor of that company and use the investor visa to come across to the States.
Q When you say “made to look like,” what do you mean?
A Well, I didn’t obviously at that point have the business credentials or the money to invest in any company, and so we talked about, or she gave me the idea that she could buy my horse, like use money that would go into my account and sort of pretend to buy my horse, and then the money from that would go back out of my account into either the business or somewhere else, I’m not sure where it was going back to, but to make it look like I had invested that money into the company and therefore qualify for that visa.
Q Did … this plan come into fruition? Did you take steps towards it?
A Yes, we did.
Q And so can you walk through those steps?
A So the money went from Clare’s account into my account to make it look like she had bought… my horse… and then the money went back out again and into… another account….
Q Did you actually sell your horse to Clare?
A No…. I kept ownership of my horse throughout.
Q And so did this plan work?
A No, because …. Clare and the lawyers put in an initial application that came back saying … that basically there wasn’t enough evidence to show that I qualified for the visa and so the idea was abandoned at that point.
Q At that point in time, did you have any interest in returning to the Albany area?
A Not then. I was sort of settled, trying to build a life back in the UK.
Q Did something then happen?
A Yes. Me and Clare started talking again about the idea of me coming back and she said — she gave me the idea that she would help me get a … student visa and doing a university degree which actually did appeal to me because I didn’t have a degree and I hadn’t finished school and I thought that would be a cool idea.
Q Did that work out?
A No. I went — I did come and visit and I did, I visited a university and I met, you know, for the interview at the university and was accepted through that, but the visa application got denied.
Q After that visa application was denied, did you take more steps to solidify your life in England?
A Yes. I decided to move to London and I started working for Goldman Sachs.
Q What else was going on in your life at that point in time?
A I started running for the running club in the UK in London and I started to build a new network of friends out there, like, dating. I got a boyfriend. Like, I just started to build my life in England, in London.
Q At that time, were you still doing your check-ins with Clare Bronfman and Keith Raniere?
A Yes, I was still checking in every day and I still had a coach, I think. Yes, I’m sure I still had a coach, so I would speak to my coach once a week and things like that.
Q During that time period, were there any conversations with people about the lifestyle that you were –there any conversations with people in the NXIVM community about the lifestyle that you were living in London?
A Yes. Clare used to say things were, like, that she thought I had sort of lost myself in my indoctrination since I started working at Goldman’s … but they didn’t pick up the phone so often when I was doing my check-ins. I wasn’t talking to them that frequently, but I did speak to Keith Raniere a few times during that time where he would talk to me about some things that later I thought became curriculum in the Jness Tracks. More specifically, he was talking to me about the idea that women sort of walk around with a checklist looking for a man that they want to marry and they’re kind of, like, objectifying men in a certain way being, like, well, does he match this, that and the other, and I started thinking, ‘oh, is that what I’m doing with my boyfriend’ and I was paranoid about that.
Q What kind of categories of things had you been looking for in a man at that time that would have been considered problematic?
A Well, probably like whether they were, like, financially stable or — I would imagine the things, I don’t know. Like whether — I’m not sure, really. I don’t even know –
Raniere Advises Sylvie That She Is Selfishly Seeking a Man
Q When the defendant told you that you were walking around looking for a checklist and that you were asking, you were trying to tick off items on a checklist when you were looking for men, what was your understanding of what these checklist items were?
A Well, I’m pretty sure that he said it more in the way like this is what women do and I assume that meant me too, but I think it was, like, my understanding would have been that I’m just looking at a man as, like, a functional thing versus, like, a life partner. That’s what I … thought he was alluding to, is, like, just looking at, like, ‘can you provide for me?’, like, ‘are you going to be a good dad for me to have?”, you know, ‘are you going to provide me children?’, like, this kind of a thing.
Q And what was wrong with that?
A I’m not sure but I understood it to be a bad thing to do that at that point. I started to feel like, okay, that’s a bad thing, I shouldn’t do that.
Q I’d like to turn your attention to 2011. At that time, did you attend V-Week 2011?
Q And during that V-Week, did you have a discussion with the defendant?
A Yes. I was, I was running and competing a lot in that year and I had done, for the Serpentine Club in London and I had gotten some, like, good — I would say they were decent results. I got silver at the London championships. I had come in 19th in the national cross-country finals. So I was doing well. And I bumped into the defendant while running training early in the morning and we started having a conversation and he suggested that I have a go at becoming an elite runner, so I could quit Goldman’s and give it a go, but I wasn’t — it was like a good last chance to do that essentially.
THE COURT: Was this in London that you met?
THE WITNESS: No, I went to V Week. That was at V Week that I bumped into him.
THE COURT: And V Week was at —
THE WITNESS: Silver Bay.
THE COURT: — the Adirondacks?
THE WITNESS: Correct.
THE COURT: Go ahead.
Q So was there discussion about your current job and what were you doing at that time?
A Yes, that I would quit my job and that he could train me.
Sylvie Quits Her Job to Train with Raniere as an Olympian Runner
Q Were there any specific visions that he mentioned in terms of what you could achieve?
A I was — well, yeah, he used to say that I could be an elite runner and that I could run, you know, with the best, with the best, like, I could make it to the elite standard. And I wanted to go to the Olympics and I made that clear.
Q And so what was the defendant’s role going to be in regards to you being an elite runner?
A My running coach.
Q And did you — had you ever seen the defendant run?
A Have I? No, I haven’t seen him run.
Q So what did you do after that conversation?
A I planned — I started to plan my quitting my job in London. So I planned to quit in February of 2012 which was, you know, after bonuses and all of that kind of thing.
Q And so what was the plan for what you were going to do?
A Well, I was going to quit. I asked Sara Bronfman whether I could work for her and whether she had a job for me and she did because I still wanted to try to earn money obviously to pay for myself so I could be, like, be a runner full time. So the plan was to run full time and train full time and support myself through work for Sara and I would come back and forth to the States to be trained by Keith Raniere but I was essentially still living in London.
Q How did your family react when you quit your job?
A …. I think they thought it was quite typical of me, but it wasn’t looked upon as the most sensible idea because I was quite stable in my job, I was doing well with the running club, and this was, like, going out on a limb being trained on my own as a runner with Keith Raniere. It just — it didn’t make a massive amount of sense.
Q Did you have any conversations with anyone in the NXIVM community about any other changes that you had to make to your life in London?
A Yes. Somewhere in that time, Clare spoke to me on the phone and said that I would need to quit running for the Serpentine Club in order to be trained by Keith and stop racing for them.
Q And did she provide you any reasoning for that?
A I don’t remember. I remember getting really upset on that phone call because I had — I mean, I had become team captain for the ladies at the Serpentine Club, they supported me through so many different things, I trained with them, they were all my friends. So it was very — that was really hard, but I wanted to be trained by Keith. I thought, you know, he’s going to make me into an Olympian. So, yes, it was upsetting but I thought that was the sacrifice that I had to make.
Q And so did you make that sacrifice?
Q And what happened after that?
A I went out to the States and I think it was supposed to be for, like, four or five weeks and I ended up staying a little bit longer to take part in the Freihofer which is a 5K race in Albany.
Q And did you participate in that?
A In the race? Yes.
Q And did you have any understanding about the defendant’s interest in you participating in that race?
A Yeah, it was always presented by, I’d say, Pam and Keith and Clare that the Freihofer was, like, an important race and that it was a good chance to sort of be, like, a platform to show, I think it was called R-Tech which was Keith’s, the name for Keith’s running program, and so it was a way to show Keith’s abilities in training runners.
Q Where is the Freihofer held?
A In Albany.
Q When you came back for this period of time to train in the United States, would you actually meet with the defendant?
A In that time, I actually did a few times. So, yes, he came to a few of my training sessions.
Q Did you ever have any conversations with the defendant on any of those sessions?
A My running sessions?
A In that time, yes, I mean, yes. Do you mean —
Keith Suggests Possible Sex
Q At some point — at any point, did you have any romantic conversations with the defendant?
A ….At some point, we had gone on a walk about my running and he had said something that I thought was a bit funky but I kind of let it go or I just thought it was weird because he was my running coach. And I just didn’t get into it, but he said something — he was talking about relationships in general and said, was, like, talking about how — you know, he said, he made some kind of comment that said, ‘If we were to ever have a sexual relationship, like we’d become really good friends first,’ or something like that and that was the way to do it. And I was like, yes, I thought, ‘yes, you always become friends with someone before you have sex with them.’ I was sort of — I thought it was weird but I let it go.
Q Did you have any interest in a sexual relationship with the defendant?
A No. He was my running coach and much old — more like an authority, older man.
Q After you spent the time in the United States, did you go back to, did you go back to London?
Q And then did you — when did you come back again?
A I think probably not until V-Week because, actually, that year was the London Olympics and I was living in London and I really wanted to be at as many of the events as I could so I’m pretty sure I didn’t come again until V-Week.
Q Did you make any changes in your life in London before V Week…?
A I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend at the time because, really, I — yes, I broke up with my boyfriend and I started to become more separated from the Serpentine because he was really sort of my last contact in that community that I was spending any significant time with. So then we broke up and, yeah, then I really didn’t have any connection to friends in London anymore.
Q Why did you break up with him?
A Well, honestly, I don’t really know specifically the answer to that because he was a really nice, really nice guy, but he said to me that — yeah, he — I think from his perspective, it was like, it seemed like I was invested in being back in Albany more and I felt like I needed to be back there training to be a runner. And, yeah, I don’t know. I just — there was a lot. I was so invested in the ESP community, I guess, so I’m not really sure…..
Q What happened — when you went back for V-Week 2012, did you stay beyond V-Week?
A Yeah. From what I remember, yeah.
Q And why was that?
A To do more training.
Q And at some — you had mentioned earlier Jness. Can you explain what Jness is?
A Yes. So, Jness had been going on for a while and that was, like, these — it was like a women’s organization where I think the point of it was… ‘distilling’ what it means to be a woman. So it’s, like — the question was, like, what are women separate from men and what I understood the point to be was for women to work out what they were uninfluenced by men.
Sylvie Takes Classes in Jness
Q And who was the head of Jness?
A Well, I think it was supposed to be Pam [Cafritz] and Nancy Salzman or one or two, both of them, or maybe Marianna [Fernandez], I’m not sure, but the curriculum I understood always came from Keith.
Q Who did you understand that from?
A Well, when Nancy Salzman would do the dispositions and things, she would — her, and I knew from her assistant, that she would get what she would call a download from Keith and that would be what she used to write the disposition.
Q And when you say “disposition,” what does that mean?
A It’s basically the teaching. So it would be, like, a long kind of, like, a monologue or something. It could be up to an hour of them talking at you which is, like, talking – basically, the lesson would be in this long speech.
Q So who would give the lesson?
A Nancy Salzman.
Q And who did you understand the lesson to have been from?
A Keith Raniere.
Q At some point, did something called Jness Tracks develop?
A Yes. I think that was after V Week in 2012 from what I remember, yeah.
Q And so how did you hear about Jness Tracks?
A I think I first heard about it from Clare or Pam or really the whole — I say the whole community but people in Albany. We’re talking about a lot because it was a big effort from the salespeople to get everybody into the Jness Tracks, like to sell everyone on the idea.
Selling in Nxivm Explained
Q When you say “salespeople,” what do you mean?
A There were people in, in the ESP that were salespeople but I think when it came to me, that the people that would talk to me about getting into intensive were most typically Pam or Clare.
Q Understanding that, but just can you describe a little, in a little bit more detail what salespeople did and …. how they made money?
A They make money by people taking courses. So they would have meetings with people to persuade them to take different courses basically.
Q Did they — do you know whether salespeople earned more money by having people they had brought into the organization bring new people into the organization?
A Yeah. I think, I mean, I never did any of that so I’m not sure on the specifics of the structure, but I believe ….there were different ways that you could make money from what I understand. As a proctor, you made money by the people underneath you and people that you enrolled enrolling people. Like, you would earn commission off all of the sales and then there was a separate thing that was salespeople and … there was something that they called…. Field trainer. That was it. That’s, like, if you, you called loads of people on lots of courses and then you trained other people how to sell other people and they started selling people underneath that. You know, like, it was a chain effect, I guess.
Jness Tracks – a New Idea From Raniere
Q So turning back to Jness Tracks, was this happening around the time of V Week 2012?
A Jness Tracks? Yes.
Q And was this the first time that it was being offered?
A Yes, it was a new thing where Jness was going to include men too so it was, like, men and women.
Q And … can you describe the importance in the community of taking curriculum the first time it comes out?
A There was always a lot of persuasion particularly for the first time because it would say, like, this is the only time that Vanguard is going to be teaching it himself directly and he’s going to be there in the room and this will be your only chance to have it taught to you by him.
Q Was there a term for that, for the first iteration of any curriculum?
A Oh, first generation, yeah.
Q And after the first generation, what would, how would it be shown to the next group to take it?
A On video, and then they would be called second generation and third generation, et cetera, et cetera.
Q Did you personally like taking first generation curriculum?
A No. I mean, I didn’t — I didn’t really like taking incentives in general. I definitely didn’t like taking the first generation because they would always be extra-long hours and it seemed like they were kind of figuring out what was happening while it was happening so sometimes people wouldn’t get out of the training until 2 or 3 in the morning. Just the hours were, like, really, really long and especially at that time, I really wanted to focus on my running and being an athlete and it didn’t make sense to me to be doing an intensive when, really, I was trying to become an athlete.
Keith Tells Sylvie That She Is Cold Hearted
Q And so did you tell anyone that you didn’t want to take Jness Tracks?
A Yes. I told Clare and Pam from what I remember that I didn’t want to take it and then either one or both of them suggested I go for a walk with Keith.
Q And did you go for a walk with the defendant?
A I did, yeah.
Q And can you describe what happened on the walk?
A I remember getting really upset on the walk because – I don’t really remember how the conversation started, but he was basically telling me why it was a good idea for me to do the Jness Tracks and he said things like, that I was always… cold and that I would always be coldhearted, and that my children wouldn’t love me or, like, those were the things that really I remember from it that really upset me and it was, like, I needed the Jness Tracks to make sure that that didn’t happen.
Q Did you tell anyone what Keith, what the defendant had said to you?
A I’m not sure whether I did because obviously, I mean I was ashamed about that I didn’t want to think of myself as being coldhearted and that my children wouldn’t love me so that, like, wasn’t something I wanted to talk about. I don’t remember whether I even told anyone about it. I’m not sure.
Q And so did you end up taking Jness Tracks?
A Not then. I didn’t take the first generation but then I took the second generation.
Jness Tracks Taught that Women Are Selfish and Men Love Sex
Q And can you describe what Jness Tracks was like?
A Yes. That first one, I don’t remember it super clearly, but there were a couple of things that stood out from it to me that I found difficult. There was a session in it where I think — you were given, like, male mentors as part of it. So there would be like three men and you would be what they call the focus in different kind of, I guess they called them, like, breakout groups or something and they would take you through a process.
One of those processes, it was, like, the men teaching the women what it’s like to be a man. So I just — I found it quite, just threatening and uncomfortable because they were correcting you on the way that you were sitting… telling you that were doing different antics that were, like — so, apparently, the kind of general teaching was that women do a lot of antics and a lot of different things to try and get stuff from men and so this part of the training was to kind of snap that out of you. So it would be, like, correcting your behavior or getting you to lower the tone of your voice, sit straight in your chair, and it was very kind of regimental and I found that really uncomfortable and scary.
Q Were there … any specific teachings about women and sex?
A There was a lot of conversation …. and we had different discussion groups and debriefs from what I remember, where it was, like, men are very — and these were probably not the exact words from the training, but this is what I understood. Men were very obsessive about sex and that all that they thought about was sex and that’s all they really wanted whereas women were really materialistic and self-absorbed and narcissistic. That’s what I took away from it, and that all we wanted was stuff and be taken care of and not be responsible for anything. And for, like, men to be healthy or primitive men, they would have had sex with multiple people and had multiple partners and that was somehow kind of healthier or normal, whereas, women should be loyal to only one man or that’s what’s natural for them and if they go beyond that, it’s more likely to be something spiteful or, in some way, yes, trying to get back at the man and it’s not the normal thing for them.
Q Were there any teachings regarding women withholding sex?
A I don’t really remember that specifically but I think that it was maybe discussed as, like, a pattern that women, like, try to do to try to get something.
Stay Tuned for Part 4