This is Part 3 of our series on the testimony of Mark Vicente.
Mark was the second witness to testify at the trial of Keith Alan Raniere, now a convicted felon being held at the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, awaiting sentencing for various felony convictions (His sentencing will take place at 10:00 AM on June 23rd).
In this excerpt, Vicente explains a little more about the inner workings of Nxivm – and how it was structured from a business hierarchy.
He is being examined by AUSA Mark Lesko.
Q I’d like to draw your attention to . In that year, did anyone leave the NXIVM community?
A …. nine members of the community left…. among them were Barbara Bouchey, Susan Dones, and … seven others…s
Q And why did these nine women leave NXIVM?
A My understanding is that they had concerns about the way Mr. Raniere’s running things. About him sleeping with members of the executive board and other members. There were some issues about monies that were owed to them. That’s my general understanding at the time.
Q Did Mr. Raniere offer any explanation regarding the nine women leaving?
A He explained to me that there were a number of issues with these women. They were … basically engaged in criminal behavior. They were …. socialists, and there were all kinds of issues with them. They were… being suppressive. That was what I was told.
Q What was the nature of the alleged criminal behavior…?
A I believe something to do with some monies that I was told they wanted that they shouldn’t have.
Q Was … the nine women leaving described in a certain way in NXIVM?
A … they were described as enemies. As being suppressive. As enemies of the company and enemies of Raniere….
Q Was the term “defectors” used?
A It was, yes.
Q Who used that term?
A I believe Raniere and others used that term. … Nancy Salzman used that term as well.
Q This issue regarding monies owed, how was that issue characterized in the NXIVM community?
A It was characterized as extortion, an extortion attempt. That those monies were not owed to them and it was just extortion. They were trying to get money for something.
Q Were civil actions filed against the defectors?
A …. civil actions were filed against… Barbara Bouchey. …. I don’t recall about the others.
Q Were you asked to take any action against the nine defectors?
A I was asked to write down any damages I believed I personally got from … Barbara Bouchey [leaving] — to see if I could tally like what were the losses to my ability to enroll that would then be passed on to … the Attorney General or lawyers…
Q Did you participate in any efforts of damage control regarding the nine defectors?
A I did. I was asked if I would go to the center that was … closing down or imploding… the Tacoma Center, and I was asked to go there to do damage control with the remaining people that were there and explain the company’s position as best as I could.
Q Who asked you to do that?
A It was both Raniere and Nancy Salzman. And then I believe myself…. Nancy Salzman and Lauren Salzman went… possibly Barbara Jeske went to Seattle to meet with the members of the center.
Q And were people leaving [the Tacoma Washington Nxivm] center?
A They were.
Q As a result of the nine defectors?
A Yes. That was my understanding, as a result of what they were hearing.
Q Were there any other actions within NXIVM taken against Barbara Bouchey?
A Well, she was spoken of very badly, very negatively. She was spoken about as being suppressive. That she had all these issues. I believe there was some legal action taken….
THE COURT: … When you say “suppressive,” what do you understand that term to mean?
THE WITNESS: Suppressive… is like an evil person…. the way it was defined in the [Nxivm] system, suppressive is somebody who suppresses the goodness of the human spirit, which implies they’re a bad person or they’re doing bad actions. But the way suppressive was used is basically against the company, negative towards goodness. That we were good, and they were bad.
THE COURT: All right. Thank you.
Q Did you have a feeling about, or a perception of the nine defectors after they left?
A I did have a perception. And I had a conversation with Raniere when he said to me, you know, in essence, the problem was they never got through their issues. … he called them socialists. They believed in… a socialist-type doctrine. We had conversations that he would release a new curriculum now that they’ve left….
Q Did your role change at NXIVM after the nine defectors left….?
A I was promoted to the rank of green. And I was praised as being somebody who was very loyal and stood by the company and stood by Raniere.
Q Who specifically praised you?
A … Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman. There may have been other people. I recall Raniere thanked me for my actions.
Q Were you asked to join the executive board?
A I was. Shortly after that, I was invited up to what would be the new executive board, which, you know, I saw as a promotion at the time.
Q Did you have an understanding as to why you received all these promotions?
A My general understanding was that, you know, my loyalty was seen as some kind of maturity in the company….
Q Was loyalty important to the defendant?
Q Along with your joining the executive board, were other changes made to the executive board at that time?
A Well, the old executive board was disbanded, and this new board was created and was finally formed of myself and five others.
Q … who was on the old executive board?
A I believe the old executive board was Barbara Bouchey, Edgar Boone, Loretta Garza, Lauren Salzman, and Nancy Salzman was also head of it. I don’t recall the others right now.
Q Who was part of the new executive board?
A So the new executive board was myself, Emiliano Salinas, Alex Betancourt, Clare Bronfman, Karen Unterreiner. And then I think a week or two later, Lauren Salzman joined the board as well.
Q Was the defendant part of the new executive board?
A … the defendant wasn’t part of it; the defendant was at the head of it. The … structure was Raniere, Nancy Salzman, and then the executive board was this sort of public-facing structure… The authority at the very top was Raniere. Theoretically, Nancy Salzman was supposed to be in charge of the executive board. …. on paper that was true, but not entirely…. below Raniere and below Nancy Salzman was the executive board.
Q Did the defendant attend executive board meetings?
A Yes. He did. Generally, when the executive board was in town in Albany and having meetings, he would quite often … attend.
Q Did the executive board meet regularly?
A We met every week, either a conference call or video conference call or… if we were in Albany together, we would be in person, pretty much always at Nancy Salzman’s house.
Q And what were the responsibilities of the executive board when you were a member of it?
A Well, we were generally responsible for all … the activities in the company…. we were responsible for all the divisions …. for the health of the company… policies, making sure that policies were occurring, fielding requests for changes in policy….
Q Did the executive board have the authority to make policy changes?
A We did not. We could suggest policy changes, but we didn’t have the authority to make them. We had to check. We had to go above us for confirmation.
Q Who had the ultimate authority to make policy changes?
A Raniere had the ultimate authority.
Q Did the executive board participate in events like coach summits or V Week?
A We did. Coach summits were generally run by us. We were considered the responsible parties who run them. At V Week, members of the executive board and other greens were responsible for running certain activities at V Week…. We were also seen as mentors that would help if there were any issues that came up. But we were seen as responsible for a great many of the activities of the company.
Q …. Did the executive board have ultimate decision-making generally?
Q Who had ultimate decision-making authority in NXIVM?
A Well, Raniere had the ultimate authority. And I mean as far as I can recall, anything that was outside of the policy would have to be referred up to him to discuss and decide whether it should go or not.
Q What sort of decisions were referred to the defendant by the executive board?
A Changes in the way the education might be done. Changes to the format of things in the education. Discussions about… centers opening or where centers were. And we had a lot of discussions about sales as well and… commerce and things that needed to occur. Q What was your understanding of the view of the defendant within the NXIVM community?
A Well, generally speaking… he was seen with awe, and enormous respect. … most people that ever got to see him had already gone through a lot of the education.
So I think people were generally awe-struck. They saw him as the wisest person there, the person who had the most superior… ethical, moral understanding of humanity. I mean, in some ways, you know, akin to, you know, a king or a spiritual leader.
Q Was there a group within NXIVM that was particularly trusted and close to the defendant?
A There … was a circle of people that were individually related to him in different ways that was much closer to him, which didn’t necessarily correlate with rank necessarily….. some had been very close for a long, long time.
Q Would this trusted group socialize with the defendant?
A Yes. When he did that kind of thing, they would, yes.
Q And where would social outings typically occur?…
A They could be at Nancy Salzman’s house. If there were Christmas dinners. They could be at a farm owned by Clare Bronfman. There would be socializing happening there, different events and parties.
A number of times the people very close to him were invited to the island of Fiji to spend time with each other with him as well.
Q Were some of the gatherings you just mentioned not opened to the rest of the NXIVM community?
A Some of the others were open. For instance, events at Nancy Salzman’s house, private parties were not open. Fiji was not an open invitation. It was a very specific invitation to specific people.
Q Was this trusted group a formal or informal group within NXIVM?
A No, it was informal.
Q Did members of the trusted group have special positions of trust and privilege with the defendant?
A Yes, they … got to spend a lot more time with him. Often they would go and ask him questions. They would, in essence, be the go-between sometimes between the executive board and him. Sometimes, people would be the go-between if they had the access to him. If they had, you know, his phone number, they could call him any time.
And then often they seemed to also get promoted in ways that were to me not consistent with the actual stripe path by virtue of their closeness to him.
Q Did members of the trusted group, in your opinion, seek the defendant’s approval?
A Yes, very much.
Q Was seeking of the defendant’s approval important in NXIVM?
A Very important.
Q What were some of the ways in which you earned the defendant’s approval?
A …. I believe that my involvement with the [altered] tapes was one way. I believe that my going to bat for the company in 2009. I believe that my defense of him in 2012 when there was a series of articles that came out.
And also I took the step to go to Mexico and begin working on a documentary, which was pretty risky for myself and others, and I think all those things — and … my deference and my obedience.
Q Just to be precise, was the trusted group different than the executive board?
A They didn’t necessarily correlate.
Q Was everyone who was high-ranking within ESP in the trusted group?
A I don’t believe so, no.
Q Did some members of the trusted group have close intimate relationships with the defendant?
A I believe so.
Q Now you mentioned that certain individuals received promotions as a result of being in the trusted group. Could you give us an example or two of that happening?
A Yes. In the case of Marianna, who was very close to Raniere. One example that seemed to really concern everybody is that as — you know, in any rank, in any color, there were stripes and you had to — you had to do certain things to achieve those stripes.
And in her case, when he decided to jump her two stripes, and she didn’t actually meet the qualifications, and everybody was completely confused as to how that could happen. I was told that he had ultimate authority over stripe paths, so he could do whatever he wanted.
Q So is there another example a member of the trusted group getting a promotion?
A ….Well, myself…. I wasn’t clear sometimes what are the requirement for the green. You know, I think it had a lot to do with loyalty.
Q Did any member of the trusted group increase the potential for financial advantages?
A Yes. Because if it was related to rank in some way, yes, absolutely.
Q When you initially became involved in ESP in approximately 2005, 2006 time frame, do you recall who was in the defendant’s trusted group?
A When I first came in…. Pam [Cafritz[, Marianna [Fernandez], Kristin [Keeffe], Dawn [Morrison], Edgar [Boone]…..
Q Was Lauren Salzman a member of the trusted group?
A Yes, she was.
Q Was Nancy Salzman a member of trusted group?
A Yes, she was.
Q Was Sara Bronfman a member of the trusted group.
A Yes, she was.
Q Was Clare Bronfman a member of trusted group?
Q Was Monica Duran a member of the trusted group?
Q Was Daniella Padilla a member of the trusted group?
Q Was Barbara Bouchey a member of the trusted group?
Q After you were essentially promoted in the 2008-2009 time frame, did you believe that you were included in the trusted group?
A I did. I thought … I was as well.
Q When you were promoted to senior proctor and a green sash in 2009, what was the benefit to you in that role?
A Well, as a senior proctor and green, I now had the authority to open centers and to grow centers and to own centers.
So that allowed me the opportunity, along with Sarah [Edmondson] to open the Vancouver center. Well, to begin developing towards a full center, then be able to officially open it.
So a person with a green connection could actually build areas, build countries and, you know, build centers.
Q And would that result in a potential financial benefit to you?
A Potentially, yes. Because what happened is that once you … had a hundred paying Ethos members, you could call yourself a center at which point there was a certain commission that you would get.
Understand up to this point we were paying out of pocket for everything; for all the intensives, for the space, for rent, electricity, et cetera.
Once you reached a hundred, you could now get what was termed a “center bonus”; where you would get 10 percent of the gross, which you could then use to offset what you were spending on the center. And the idea was that if you kept on growing and growing into hundreds and hundreds of members, you could potentially earn a lot of money.
Q And so you started the Vancouver center with Sarah?
Q Why couldn’t Sarah open that center on her own?
A At that point, she was an orange or a proctor, so she didn’t have the ability. We… had partnered up, and when I became a green, that allowed us to take that step.
Q Now you mentioned that Edgar Boone was no longer a member of the executive board after approximately 2009; is that correct?
Q Did Edgar Boone remain part of the defendant’s trusted group?
A I think so. He had a lot more sort of a personal relationship with him. Raniere was mentoring him in matters that seemed more spiritual or referred him to a lot of different books to read.
So there was some kind of personal relationship, but it wasn’t as connected to the executive board anymore.
Q Was anyone in the leadership ranks at NXIVM not trusted?
A …. I know at a certain point that Esther Carlson was not trusted. And I was told as much in the executive board.
My sense is that there were people that were in and then were out. People that were out maybe they did something or they didn’t do something, or there was some issue. And I would at first press for more information and then realize, you know, that based on not getting answers I realized it was above my pay grade.
Q Were there people within NXIVM who had close access to the defendant outside of the formal organizational structure?
A Well, there were people that were not high-ranking that had access. My sense is anybody who had close access that generally speaking had gone through some kind of education, unless they were, you know, a PR person or … a political person, or perhaps a journalist.
Q Did Kathy Russell have access to the defendant?
A She did.
Q What was Kathy Russell’s role in NXIVM?
A So my understanding is she was part of the accounting department, but slightly separate. You know, at times she was termed bookkeeper. … but, again, separate from the –connected to the accounting department, but somehow separate.
She would answer to Emiliano on certain things because if I spoke to her about certain things, she would check with him. She also managed something called movie honor, which was, you know, once a week showing movies about great people, people with great philosophies. And also she was the person that was also responsible for building his executive library and taking care of the library.
Q And the library is physical location?
A It’s a physical location in 8 Hale Drive upstairs.
Q Did Clare have access to the defendant, Clare Bronfman?
A She did. …. although the executive board… was working with him, she tended to have a lot more access, so she would tend to report what we discussed directly to him. She … ran what is termed the “legal department”. She was also overseeing finances. She was overseeing admin and accounting.
Q Did you witness Clare Bronfman contacting the defendant?
Q How would that typically happen?
A Typically, it would be a phone call or it would be in person. You know, they might meet somewhere, or might meet at Nancy Salzman’s house. I did a bunch of work where I got to see… them interact, so they would talk a lot.
Q You talked about access to the defendant. Did members of the defendant’s trusted group engage in one-on-one time with the defendant?
A Yes, they would be, you know, often seen walking with him, or there would be a lot of sidebars, I suppose, a lot of private discussions. Even when we’d have meetings, there would be a lot of private discussions that he was having with people and they’d be having discussions about I’m not sure what.
Q Did members of the trusted group, were they personally mentored by the defendant?
A Yes, they were.
Q How were members of the defendant’s trusted group treated within the NXIVM community?
A They were treated with a lot of respect. It was seen as a … big deal. You know, if you were being personally mentored by him, or you got to spend personal time with him, that was a big deal. It wasn’t ranked in the same way, it was almost a kind of social capital.
Q Who made the final determinations as to who advanced within ESP, within the rank structure?
A Well, it went through a system, so Lauren Salzman would make some determinations, but she would check with Raniere. He had the ability to veto something if he wanted to or to suggest something that wasn’t going to be done. So, in the end, it was him.
Q Who was the ultimate decision-maker regarding who would qualify as EMPs within NXIVM?
A Again, it was him. Because at one point I know a number of us were suggesting that people that were not EMPs should be paid as well. There was a general sense of agreement that this would be a good idea.
When it went to him for decision, he said “no, that was not going to happen.” So in the end, it was him.
Q Is there an example of the defendant making a decision regarding the EMPs that affected them financially?
A Well, that would be probably an example. It affected their potential earnings. The standards kept on moving around, and a number of us, including myself, so you have people making no money when people, you know, in the outside world, so to speak, with less experience and less time in their craft, they’re making hundreds of dollars an hour. And there were many people that were struggling and if they could make some money at a lower EM level, it would have helped. But he vetoed that.
Q Did you discuss that decision with the defendant?
A I did. I don’t recall his exact answer. A lot of the way that I operated with him is when I asked questions and if he answered me in such a way that didn’t necessarily make sense to me, I made the assumption, you know, given my lower rank, that there was something that he understood that I didn’t.
He had a greater respect over the things than I did so, again, it was above my pay grade, or I just didn’t have the intelligence to understand what he was saying.
Q Did NXIVM ever seek the defendant’s approval for life decisions outside of the NXIVM set of programs?
A They did. I mean, there were examples of people traveling or wanting to go somewhere or move somewhere. He would advise them on what to do, and they would go to him to seek advice.
Q Do you recall a specific example of that happening?
A I do. There was one instance where I remember speaking to Nicki Clyne and saying, “No, why don’t you fly to so and so” — I don’t remember exactly where it was — and she said to me, Well, I need to check with… Keith first.” And I said, “Why? You’re just flying there.” And she said, “No, I need to see what he says and I need to see who needs me.”
And I remember saying to her like, “There’s lot of people to take care of him, I don’t think he needs you, what’s the big deal?” And she couldn’t give me a straight answer. But I remember being confused as to why a simple decision had to be run by him.
Q You mentioned that seeking the defendant’s approval was important. What were some of the ways that members of the trusted group obtained the defendant’s approval?
A Well, I think generally, again, loyalty was one way. I think that, you know, he received a lot of gifts from people. Maybe that was another way. People would drive him around. I certainly did the same. Deference. Deference and respect.
Q What about public efforts to protect NXIVM? Is that a way to seek the defendant’s approval?
A Yes, that was. You know, if anybody’s willing to speak out and speak on his behalf. You know, there was a number of… speeches that I gave during my time there where, you know, I was — I specifically named him, you know, in my speeches. And I did a TED talk once where I specifically named him. Those are the kinds of things that people would do to, A, to make sure that, you know, he knew that, you know, yes, I respected him; B, because if I didn’t, there would be the issue of, you know, I lack tribute, and I’m prideful, and I have all these problems and it would go on and on and on.
Q How about recruiting certain types of people?
A Yeah,… if you could recruit… heavy hitters… people of influence, that was seen as… very important.
And very early on I enrolled somebody from the De Beers family. That was seen to be a big deal. And then I enrolled a lot of movie stars; you know, filmmakers. That was seen as a big deal.
High net-worth individuals or people who had a large platform in the world, that was seen as something really good and, you know, I was often congratulated, and I think other people were as well when you enrolled certain people.
Q Did other members of the trusted group recruit these people of influence…?
A Yes…. Sara Bronfman, Clare Bronfman, Emiliano Salinas, Alex Betancourt, Alejandra Gonzalez.
Those are some of the people that would enroll high net-worth individuals and also people with a lot of political clout.
Q Do you recall an incident involving the defendant’s neighbor that illustrated the type of person he respected?
A Yes…. Nancy Salzman’s neighbor. But there was a time when there was one particular neighbor who really had a problem with us, with the company, and was very aggressive with Raniere and somebody stood in between Raniere and this person. It was a large fellow, and basically, you know, put his body in between them.
And Raniere couldn’t stop talking about it. Just talking about how, you know, amazing it was that this guy did this, you know, what amazing principles, what loyalty that kind of thing. But he spoke about it a lot.
Q Did high-ranking members of the NXIVM community have access to certain financial benefits?
A Well, yes, because the higher rank you were, the more were you able to do within the system. You know, if you were at a certain rank and had the training, you could be a head trainer. As I said before, head trainers could make up to 30 percent of the gross intensive or, you know, EMPs; you know, the EMs, they could make a few hundred dollars an hour. But, yes, the higher rank you were, it was tied to more money. And basically we were told this path is an entrepreneur path. You know, we want you to get to the point that you could make enormous amount of money, you know, put some effort in, create something, build something, and then, in essence, make money off that thing, almost in a passive kind of way.